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Maria Valles 000662-030Characterization through Physical Motions and Gestures in Hedda Gabbler and Death and the Maiden
Stage directions play an emblematic role in the development of the protagonists in Dorfmans Death and the Maiden and Ibsens Hedda Gabler. Through physical motions and gestures the key female characters Paulina Escobar and Hedda Gabler, both successfully transmit more about their personalities than dialogue can explain. The characters motions and the way they interact with others further highlights the main features of their unique personalities. Paulina Escobar has endured a traumatic experience which she is unable to overcome, and alternatively Hedda Gabler finds herself trapped in an unhappy marriage and a constant search for control. Stage directions are not essential to every play; however in Death and the Maiden and Hedda Gabler, both authors through physical motions and gestures develop the characters relationships, emotions, and lastly a manipulative characteristic found in both characters. Both Dorfman and Ibsen take advantage of stage directions to define the bizarre and unique characteristics of Paulinas and Heddas emotions. Both women are portrayed as emotionally unstable and act inappropriately or simply unexpectedly during delicate and difficult situations. This challenges the readers mind when it comes to understanding the characters, and brings up questions about the possible reasoning behind their actions. In Death and the Maiden Paulina holds Dr. Miranda hostage because she believes he is the one responsible for the torture she received many years ago. What is most peculiar about the situation is that she acts noticeably calmly, as if she were performing a daily duty. Dr. Miranda finds himself tied up, immobile, and with a gag in his mouth as Paulina simply watches from the terrace (Dorfman 42). This is an unusual behavior for someone who is in the process of torturing what could possibly be an innocent victim. It is unknown whether it is just an act that Paulina puts on as self-defense, but she appears to be confident as she is
Maria Valles 000662-030 able transmit tranquility in a situation where she would be expected to be extremely nervous and unsteady, at one point she is described to be calm, till the end of the scene (Dorfman 4). Paulinas actions as well as Heddas, emphasize the peculiarity of their characters. As noted in her physical gestures Hedda rejects anything coming from her husband Tesman; when there is an allusion to a possible pregnancy Hedda rapidly walks about the room, raising her hands in desperation (Ibsen 21). This is an example of Heddas reaction to a delicate situation, and it exposes to the reader Heddas repugnant opinion of pregnancy and even to the idea of having a baby with Tesman. The way that Paulina and Hedda physically react to a given situation reveals each womans individual personality. Paulina seems to be serene but at the same time unstable and Hedda also seems unstable but at the same time more impatient for she is seen nervously crossing the room (Ibsen 41) and rising impatiently in times of difficulties (Ibsen 43). There is a distinct contrast between Paulinas marriage with Gerardo Escobar, and Heddas unhappy relationship with her husband, George Tesman. This becomes evident through the physical contact between each couple. From the very beginning, Dorfman exposes Paulinas character as a victim of a traumatic experience; this is enhanced when her husband says, If you knew how much I love you. If you knew how much it still hurts me (Dorfman 9). Gerardo treats Paulina with great delicacy when he takes her in his arms and she slowly calms down (Dorfman 11). Gerardo is very careful about the way he handles his wife and knows exactly how to act in order to protect her emotions. He is constantly afraid to make a wrong move that could cause Paulina to relapse again (Dorfman 8). Paulina and Gerardo are in constant physical contact, for example when Paulina is fiercely holding on to him (Dorfman 10). This indicates the comfort and security she finds in her husband. At the same time this action also demonstrates that Paulina is constantly seeking an authoritative position over him. On the other hand, Heddas character transmits a feeling of disgust and2
Maria Valles 000662-030 discontent towards her husband George Tesman; she looks at him with cold eyes throughout the play (Ibsen 35). Hedda finds herself trapped in an unhappy and loveless marriage which is further emphasized when she says, and then, what I found most intolerable of allwas being everlastingly in the company of one and the same person- (Ibsen 38). By expressing to Judge Brack that she finds herself incapable of living alongside her husband whilst conversing about her recent honeymoon, Hedda is portrayed as distant and characterized by cold motions and gestures. Hedda is described to be looking at Tesman with a cold smile (Ibsen 48) and as cold and immovable (Ibsen 75). Altogether this portrays her as a heartless and unhappy woman that seems incapable of loving anyone, not even herself. Contrastingly, Paulina shows that she is sheltered from pain by her supportive husband Gerardo. Stage directions also reveal another aspect of these characters personalities. Both Paulina and Hedda display a manipulative persona, despite the fact they have very distinct ways of expressing this. Heddas character is particularly scheming and controlling as she constantly has a second intention of self-interest behind her actions. When Mrs. Elvsted is introduced in the play Hedda proceeds to kiss her cheek, which coming from Hedda is very unusual (Ibsen 27). This action immediately brings up doubt within the reader. Heddas superficial actions become evident when Mrs. Elvsted proceeds to correct her by saying, My name is Thea as she refers to her by the wrong name even though they went to school together when they were young (Ibsen 27). As the play progresses and Hedda is talking to Mrs. Elvsted she takes a chair from the table, seats herself besides her, and strokes her hands (Ibsen 29) and passes her hands softly through Mrs. Elvsteds hair (Ibsen 84). It is not until later in the play that the justification behind her actions begins to come together and make sense. Hedda is eager to retrieve information from Mrs. Elvsted and uses physical contact to build trust and comfort in their relationship. Paulina on the other had uses the3
Maria Valles 000662-030 object of the gun as her method of manipulation; when she holds Dr. Miranda hostage Paulina shows him the gun and points it playfully in his direction (Dorfman 20) and subsequently puts the gun to his temple (Dorfman 32). The gun gives Paulina a sense of being in control. In Paulinas head, Dr. Miranda tortured and had control of her both body and soul. By holding the gun, Paulina obtains a feeling of satisfaction. Finally, Paulina is the one who can do what she pleases with her torturer and not the other way around. Paulina holding a gun naturally manipulates Dr. Mirandas thoughts and emotions, for his life is at risk, and Paulina could pull the trigger at any second ending his life. It is clear that in Death and the Maiden and Hedda Gabler the importance of stage directions is equivalent to that of the dialogue itself. If this technique were to be taken away from the play, the depth to which the reader is able to understand the characters through their physical motions and gestures would be nearly impossible. The constant physical contact between Paulina and Gerardo indicates the proximity and closeness of their marriage. However, the inexistent contact between Hedda and Tesman demonstrates the lack of affection and happiness in the couple. The tranquility of Paulinas actions and the hysteria of Heddas reactions emphasize the characters emotions and foreshadow the reasoning behind their actions. The specificity of stage directions also highlight Paulinas and Heddas constant search for manipulation and control over others. Stage directions do not determine the characterization of the characters, but facilitate the readers understanding of the overall purpose and meaning of the play.
Maria Valles 000662-030 Bibliography: Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabler. Translated by Edmund Gosse and William Archer. 1. Stilwell: Digreads.com, 2005. 12 -86. Print. Dorfman, Ariel. Death and the Maiden. 1. New York: The Penguin Group, 1994. 3-68. Print.