Short Essay #2

Date due (via TurnitIn, on Blackboard): Friday, November 19th by 11:59pm EST.
Please use the assignment template provided below and write your essay directly into it. Kindly save your document as ENG2850_LastName_FirstName_Essay2.


Your second essay will be on Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen (1891). It should be 1000 to 1250 words long. As for the first essay, you should organize your argument in two or three parts and choose specific examples to illustrate your point, duly presenting your quotes in quotation marks and indicating the page number in parenthesis.

Here’s a tip: divide up the word count into your two or three main points. You can title each part of your essay if you wish, or simply lay out your page so that the different parts of your analysis are clearly discernible, but don’t forget to write transitions for your reader when you switch parts.

In any case, you should have a separate paragraph for your introduction (in which you will explain your topic, formulate the questions you will attempt to answer, and announce the structure of your analysis) and another paragraph for your conclusion (in which you will reiterate your point and open up towards further questions your analysis will have prompted).

Please choose one of the following prompts to guide your analysis:

1. How do you interpret Hedda’s position towards feminism? Explain what you think her character says about feminism through specific examples from the text. Focus on one aspect (e.g. her sexuality, her marriage, her relationships to men, her motherhood, etc.) and dive into several points relating to that aspect which is revelatory of her position towards feminism. *Beware of anachronistic judgement: feminism may not have had the same definition in late-19th century Norway as it has today in a global sense. Take that into account in your analysis, and strive to establish some historical context to frame your analysis.*

2. Discuss the literary genre you believe this play belongs to. There are many subgenres of theatre. What makes you associate Hedda Gabler to one of them? Use specific examples and argue how they define the genre of this piece. You may want to think deeply about the concepts of audience and reception.

3. Discuss Hedda’s suicide. How does this ending produce meaning with respect to the whole play? With respect to the socio-historical context of the play? Closely analyze the passage depicting her death (below) and tie it back to the wider context of the play and its audience. What do you make of Brack’s comment ‘people don’t do such things?’ What does this suggest to the audience? You may understand the audience as contemporary (19th-century Norway) or present (what would this play mean to us, today).

Tip for close text analysis: Read the passage a first time without taking any notes. Pause at the end and listen to your thoughts. What does it make you think about? How does it make you feel? Why? Take note of where your head takes you, and read the passage again, now influenced by your particular perspective. You now have your topic angle, and from a second and third reading should emerge some subpoints to structure your analysis.

[HEDDA goes into the back room and draws the curtains.  A short
       pause.  Suddenly she is heard playing a wild dance on the piano.

[Starts from her chair.] Oh—what is that?

[Runs to the doorway.] Why, my dearest Hedda—don't play dance-music to-night! Just think of Aunt Rina! And of Eilert too!

[Puts her head out between the curtains.] And of Aunt Julia. And of all the rest of them.—After this, I will be quiet. [Closes the curtains again.]

[At the writing-table.] It's not good for her to see us at this distressing work. I'll tell you what, Mrs. Elvsted,—you shall take the empty room at Aunt Julia's, and then I will come over in the evenings, and we can sit and work there—eh?

[In the inner room.] I hear what you are saying, Tesman. But how am I to get through the evenings out here?

[Turning over the papers.] Oh, I daresay Judge Brack will be so kind as to look in now and then, even though I am out.

[In the arm-chair, calls out gaily.] Every blessed evening, with all the pleasure in life, Mrs. Tesman! We shall get on capitally together, we two!

[Speaking loud and clear.] Yes, don't you flatter yourself we will, Judge Brack? Now that you are the one cock in the basket.

[A shot is heard within.  TESMAN, MRS. ELVSTED, and BRACK leap
       to their feet.

Oh, now she is playing with those pistols again.

[He throws back the curtains and runs in, followed by MRS.ELVSTED. HEDDA lies stretched on the sofa, lifeless. Confusion and cries. BERTA enters in alarm from the right.

[Shrieks to BRACK.] Shot herself! Shot herself in the temple! Fancy that!

[Half-fainting in the arm-chair.] Good God!—people don't do such things.


4. Formulate a question of your own, which you will first discuss with me to ensure it has the potential to yield analysis. This is a good option if you read Hedda Gabler from a perspective you do not see represented in the prompts above.


This assignment counts for 25% of your course grade.

Here is how I will assess your essay:

  • Clarity of Argument: 30%
  • Organization of Argument: 20%
  • Support of Argument with Specific Examples from the Text: 20%
  • Attention to Reader (clear transitions and multiple formulations of the points addressed): 15%
  • Language, Grammar and Layout: 15%

Please use this rubric as a checklist before you submit your work.

The points gathered out of 100 will determine your letter grade as presented in the table (cf. syllabus). You will be given a letter grade for this essay, but it is your score out of 100 which will determine the 25% of your final grade that this essay represents. At the end of the semester, the points gathered in essay 1, essay 2, participation, and the final exam will give a total score out 100, and you will see the corresponding letter grade on your transcript.