The push-and-pull between knowledge gained from books and knowledge earned through life experiences is one of the most important ideas in the play. With his advanced language skills, lofty ideals, and dense catalogue of important historical figures, Hally represents book learning. Because he passes along to Sam the things he learns in school, Hally has an inflated sense of self, and thinks he’s much smarter than Sam. Rather than be resentful, Sam takes Hally’s sometimes-condescending treatment in stride, and instead focuses on trying to teach Hally how to be a man. Sam is representative of knowledge gained from life’s experiences, knowledge that Hally cannot get by reading a book. Hally doesn’t understand this, and lashes out against Sam when the older man tries to advise him about his relationship with his father. At first Sam is angry about Hally’s disrespectful behavior, but then realizes he cannot teach Hally how to be a man if he cannot be one himself. By the play’s denouement, experiential learning wins over book learning when Sam shows Hally how to be understanding and forgiving even when someone has insulted and mistreated you.
Hey guys! I wanted to add that I think Tesman doesn't necessarily want to destroy Lovberg's manuscript in some capacity, or even is reluctant to give it back. I feel like while Tesman may harbor some jealousy toward Lovberg's success, he doesn't resent Lovberg enough to even want to do anything bad to the manuscript to harm Lovberg. I think Tesman genuinely wanted to give the manuscript back to Lovberg after the party, and he was genuinely horrified that Hedda didn't give the manuscript back to Lovberg--and he said it might have ended up bei... Read more →
Man, life was tough for a woman in Victorian Norway. Social confines, gender roles, restrictions on activities, friends, and language, and a constant worry over reputation ruled the day. It’s no wonder Hedda Gabler is miserable. Just look at her angst-ridden monologue:
"Do you think I relish the fact that I have to act like Mary Sunshine 24/7 so I can be considered a lady? I'm the Marcia […] Brady of the Upper East Side, and sometimes I want to kill myself."
OK, fine, so that’s not Hedda Gabler speaking. (You caught us being sneaky.) It’s actually Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions . But the more we think about it, the more we’re convinced that someone was channeling Ibsen through the 1999 film that rocked that year’s MTV movie awards. Gellar’s character suffers from the same issues as Hedda, but more interestingly, she solves them the same way: by screwing with other people. ("You’re just a toy, Sebastian . A little toy I like to play with.")
Yes, that’s right. Hedda is the story of cruel machinations designed to entertain. Like so many great stories, sex has a lot to do with it. Both women use what they’ve got to get what they want. While both of these femme fatales dominate men, they both partner with (or live through, as Freudians would say) one man in particular who ends up captivated by a kinder, sweeter, more feminine version of the female sex. The turf battle begins, in this general fashion: "Do you honestly believe you've done a complete 180 in the few days you've known her? Well let me tell you something, people don't change overnight. You and I are two of a kind."
We could go on and on about the position of women in the world today, what’s changed since the 19th century and what hasn’t, and how the heck a man created this pistol of a character (pun intended) all the way back in 1890. But we think it’s more fun for you to 1) read Hedda Gabler , 2) watch Cruel Intentions , and 3) let us know what you think. In the meantime, we’ll still be wondering, to borrow another thematically relevant line, "How can someone so charming be so manipulative?"