Examples Of Literary Foils In Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

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Just as the muted, earthy tones of the dirt in a forest draw attention to the surreal colors of the changing autumn leaves, a literary foil is designed to bring out the attributes of the protagonist in a work by contrasting them with those of another character. Such can be seen in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, which delves into the story a woman with a debilitating, but subtly written, fear of scandal. Hedda badly wants control, but has none, and desperately wants freedom, but has none due to her fear of judgement. On the other hand, Ibsen writes a character named Judge Brack; Brack goes purposefully against societal expectations, however he is unmarried and in ultimate control. Brack is ultimately a foil to Hedda, illustrating the…show more content…
He is domineering, as demonstrated in his words and movements during Hedda and his conversation at the beginning of Act II: the stage directions state that he leans towards her when speaking, while she leans away. Similarly, when Hedda expresses her helplessness, Brack relishes in the control he has over Hedda in light of Lovborg’s death: “[Looks half-mockingly at her.] People generally get used to the inevitable,” (Act IV). Ibsen writes Brack with such characteristics in order to show the he is the product of disregard for societal norms, such as marriage. Brack’s alpha-male approach to situations regarding Hedda demonstrate his love of power and control. Ibsen’s perspective of scandal and freedom gives Brack the freedom to live against the grain of society.
On the contrary, Hedda is a character who deeply desires control and freedom, yet has neither due to her fear of scandal. At 29 years old, she married George Tesman, whom she does not love, but felt she had, “danced [herself] tired,” (Act II). Hedda is subsequently disappointed with the dullness of her role in marriage, where she was hoping for a new adventure outside her father’s control. Similarly, she refuses to even consider the possibility of an affair with Brack, even as he pressures her so; she reacts with repulsion at the suggestion. Hedda’s deeply-ingrained fear of scandal prevents her from living up to her potential; she resorts to following a path of unemployment and

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