Feminism In Hedda Gabler

1495 Words 6 Pages
Pressure is renowned for producing diamonds, but when placed under too much pressure, everyone is bound to crack. While the societal pressure of the Victorian era coerced women to be darling mothers and submissive wives, these expectations also pushed many women to the breaking point. Henrik Ibsen, truly a man before his time, uses the female characters in his controversial play, Hedda Gabler, as a canvas for his modern humanist views. In the play, Hedda refuses to abandon her identity in spite of her recent marriage to Jörgen Tesman. Along with maintaining her surname, Hedda Gabler retains her independence by manipulating others, often with her father’s pistols. On the contrary, Thea Rising, a schoolgirl friend of Hedda’s, who even refers …show more content…
Society’s demand for women to be feminine and motherly is shown through the descriptions of the women’s hair. In the play’s exposition, Hedda describes frail, soft Mrs. Elvsted as “that woman with the provoking hair that everyone made such a fuss of” (180). Mrs. Elvsted’s thick and curly hair is her defining quality and is juxtaposed with Hedda’s, whose beautiful head of hair, Ibsen deems “not particularly ample” (175). Since hair symbolizes beauty, it is also significant that during their childhood, Hedda threatened to burn off Thea Elvsted’s hair. This manifests the despise that Hedda has for the femininity that women are expected to exhibit and foreshadows future acts of aggression against society’s values. Specifically, the figurative role of hair is explored when Hedda burns the manuscript, a document which was conceived in a partnership between Mrs. Elvsted and Ejlert Lövborg. While destroying the manuscript, Hedda utters, “Now I’m burning your child, Thea! With your curly hair!”(246). While watching the document turn to ash, Hedda refers to it as Mrs. Elvsted’s child, further solidifying the manuscript as a symbolic lovechild between Mr. Lövborg and Mrs. Elvsted. Of equal significance, the syntax of Hedda’s dialogue interlocks the manuscript’s conception with Mrs. Elvsted’s hair, indicating Ibsen’s use of hair as a symbol for both conventional femininity and …show more content…
In the first act, Hedda tells Tesman, “I was just looking at my old piano. It doesn’t go with the rest of the things… We’d better put it in the backroom” (180). Upon Hedda’s request the piano is moved into the room joining the picture of Hedda’s father, General Gabler, and his pistols. This collection of the eponymous character’s mementoes from before her marriage is used by Ibsen to represent Hedda’s inner self and suggests that Hedda’s identity prior to marriage does not belong in the confines of the villa. Thus, Ibsen develops the duality of Hedda’s character: within the rest of the home she is Tesman’s wife, but in this inner room she is purely General Gabler’s daughter. The conflict created from Hedda refusing to conform to a single identity is signified in her death. After being threatened with scandal and held victim to her pregnancy in the fourth act, an aloof Hedda retreats into her inner sanctum. Abruptly, after a short pause, “she is heard to play a wild dance tune on the piano” (263). The wild music which Hedda plays demonstrates her frantic mental state evoked by this crisis as she is forced to relinquish the power which she derives from her heredity. Moments later, deprived and powerless, Hedda Gabler, while lying on the sofa, raises a pistol to her temple. The portrait of General Gabler in his military uniform

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