Hedda Gabler By Ibsen

Hedda Gabler By Ibsen Henrik Ibsen portrays a microcosm of nineteenth century Norwegian society in his play Hedda Gabler. Hedda, the protagonist, exhibits a mixture of masculine and feminine traits due to her unique upbringing under General Gabler and the social mores imposed upon her. However, although this society venerates General Gabler because of his military status, his daughter Hedda is not tolerated due to her non-conformity to the accepted gender stereotypes. Hedda’s gender-inverted marriage to Jorgan Tesman, her desire for power and her use of General Gabler’s pistols are unacceptable in her society and motif of “One doesn’t do such a thing!” that is alluded to during the play and expounded upon Hedda’s death that shows that Hedda’s uncertain stance between masculine and feminine gender roles and their associated traits is not tolerated by her society. Ibsen employs a reversal of traditional gender roles within Hedda and Jorgen Tesman’s marriage to emphasises Hedda’s masculine traits. Hedda displays no emotion or affection towards her husband Jorgen. This appearance of indifference is a trait that is usually common to men: Tesman – “My old morning shoes.

My slippers look!..I missed them dreadfully. Now you should see them, Hedda.” Hedda – “No thanks, it really doesn’t interest me’. In another gender role reversal, Hedda displays a financial awareness, which her husband, Jorgen does not posses. Although Brack corresponds with Tesman about his honeymoon travels, he corresponds with Hedda concerning the financial matters. This is a role that is usually reserved for men. Hedda does not only display traits, which are definitively masculine, or feminine, she also objects to and often defies the conventions established for her gender by society.

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She rejects references to her pregnancy as a reminder of her gender: Tesman – “Have you noticed how plump (Hedda’s) grown, and how well she is? How much she’s filled out on our travels?” Hedda – “Oh be quiet!” Hedda is reminded not only of her feminine role of mother and nurturer here, but also as wife and “appendage” to Tesman: “And to think is was you who carried off Hedda Gabler! The lovely Hedda Gabler!..now that you have got the wife your heart was set on.” As a woman of the haute bourgeoisie, Hedda is “sought after” and “always had so many admirers” and has been “acquired” by Tesman as hide wife. Hedda resents the gender conventions that dictate that she now “belongs” to the Tesman family – a situation that would not occur were she a man: Tesman – “Only it seems to me now that you belong to the family..” Hedda- ” Well, I really don’t know..” Although these traits displayed by Hedda are masculine, they are not those, which her society cannot tolerate. To entertain herself in her “boring” marriage she plays with her father’s, General Gabler’s, pistols: Hedda – “Sometimes I think I only have a talent for one thing..boring myself to death!” “I still have one thing to kill time with. My pistols, Jorgen. General Gabler’s pistols” Jorgen – “For goodness’ sake! Hedda darling! Don’t touch those dangerous things! For my sake, Hedda!”.

These pistols are a symbol of masculinity and are associated with war, a pastime which women are excluded from other than in the nurturing role of nurses and are thus not tolerated by society. Tesman implores Hedda to cease playing with them, but even his “superior” position as her husband does not dissuade Hedda, who is found to be playing with them by Brack at the beginning of act two. Brack also reminds Hedda of the inappropriate nature of her “entertainment” and physically takes the pistols away from Hedda. Hedda – “I’m going to shoot you sir!” Brack – “No, no, no!..Now stop this nonsense!” [taking the pistol gently out of her hand]. If you don’t mind, my dear lady…Because we’re not going to play that game any more today.” As a parallel to Hedda’s masculine game of playing with General Gabler’s pistols, Hedda plays the traditionally female role of a “minx” with Brack. Hedda – “Doesn’t it feel like a whole eternity since we last talked to each other?” Brack – “Not like this, between ourselves? Alone together, you mean?” Hedda – “Yes, more or less that” Brack – “Here was I, every blessed day, wishing to goodness you were home again” Hedda – “And there was I, the whole time, wishing exactly the same” At the beginning of act two, Hedda encourages Brack’s flirtation with her by telling him the true nature of her marriage to Tesman that it is a marriage of convenience: Brack – “But, tell me..I don’t quite see why, in that case..er..” Hedda – “Why Jorgen and I ever made a match of it, you mean? Hedda – “I had simply danced myself out, my dear sir.

My time was up.” Brack is emboldened by Hedda’s seeming availability and pursues the notion of a “triangular relationship” with Hedda. Not only does Hedda’s “coquettish” behaviour towards Brack exhibits the feminine side of her nature, it also demonstrates that in some instances she conforms to society’s expectations of females. Hedda’s reference to “(her) time (being) up” shows the socially accepted view that women must marry, because they are not venerated as spinsters. By conforming to this aspect of her society’s mores and marrying before she becomes a socially unacceptable spinster, Hedda demonstrates that she is undeniably female and accepts this. Hedda’s constantly seeks power over those people she comes in contact with. As a woman, she has no control over society at large, and thus seeks to influence the characters she comes into contact with in an emulation of her father’s socially venerated role as a general. Hedda pretends to have been friends with Thea in order to solicit her confidence: Thea – “But that’s the last thing in the world I wanted to talk about!” Hedda – “Not to me, dear? After all, we were at school together.” Thea – “Yes, but you were a class above me.

How dreadfully frightened of you I was in those days!” Once Hedda learns of Thea’s misgivings about Lovborg’s newfound resolve, she uses it to destroy their “comradeship” . Hedda – “Now you see for yourself! There’s not the slightest need for you to go about in this deadly anxiety..” Lovborg – “So it was deadly anxiety ..on my behalf.” Thea – [softly and in misery] Oh, Hedda! How could you!” Lovborg – “So this was my comrade’s absolute faith in me.” Hedda then manipulates Lovborg, by challenging his masculinity, into going to Brack’s bachelor party and resuming his drunken ways of old. Hedda’s “reward” for this is to find that Lovborg’s manuscript, his and Thea’s “child” falls into her hands, where she burns it, thus destroying the child and alto the relationship, both of which Hedda was jealous of. Similarly, Hedda seeks to push her husband, Jorgan, into politics: “(I was wondering) whether I could get my husband to go into politics..” This would raise Hedda’s social standing and allow her to attain and maintain power. Hedda’s manipulation of people in order to attain power is a trait that is stereotypically predominant in men.

The society of nineteenth century Norway venerates the image of submissive, static passive and pure women. Roles of power are normally allocated to men in such a society. The society in Hedda Gabler demonstrates its intolerance of Hedda’s masculine behaviour by contributing to her death. Hedda is found to be playing with her pistols in act two by Brack. After disgracing himself and returning to his “immoral” ways at Hedda’s behest, Lovborg is manipulated by Hedda into “taking his life beautifully” and she gives him one of General Gabler’s pistols. However Lovborg dies from an accidental wound to the stomach rather than a patrician death from a bullet to the head and Brack, utilising his position of power within the judicial system, sees the pistol that he accidentally killed himself with.

Recognising it as being General Gabler’s pistol, he returns to Hedda to stake his claim. Hedda refuses to be in the power of Brack, she had been “heartily thankful that (he had) no power over (her)” however, her fear is realised as Brack attempts to force his way into a “triangular relationship” with Hedda (and Tesman) in return for not exposing the scandal that she had provided Lovborg with the instrument of his death. Hedda is “as fearful of scandal as all that” and takes her life, ironically avoiding the scandal surrounding Lovborg’s death and yet causing a scandal concerning her own. Hedda’s masculine preference for the pistols to any feminine task of housekeeping and her fear of scandal due to not conforming with society’s accepted gender roles leads her to kill herself, thus demonstrating that things which “one doesn’t do” are not tolerated by her society of nineteenth century Norway.

Hedda Gabler By Ibsen

Brack strikes as a very immoral man from the very beginning, due to the aplenty
advances he made towards Hedda. He had always subtlety hinted that he thought
that Hedda might like “a new responsibility” and most importantly, that he
will “fight for the end, for the “triangle” to be “fortified and
defended by mutual consent.” To flirt with an unwed lady is one thing. But to
be thoroughly suggestive of certain immoral acts to a legally wed lady would
seem to be a moral crime. A crime, which would deem Brack as an immoral judge,
which is juxtaposition in the phrase itself. The depraved misdeed was too much
to expect from a judge, much less to say the way that he had insinuated himself
into the household of a married couple. Bracks manipulative nature can
perhaps be considered the most powerful tool that he has, to be able to control
people at his beck and call. The way he withholds his information, only to
disseminate it at an appropriate time, when it will hit the victim the
hardest, shows how well he can play the psychological game. He was apparently so
good at calculating his steps that he was able to have Hedda exclaim with pain
that she is “in your powers, Mr Brack. From now on, Im at your mercy.” He
played his last hand of the pack very well, henceforth gaining control over
Hedda almost at once, after we have seen her authoritative throughout the plot.


The unexpected twist of events, definitely illustrates an element of surprise
for the reader. Nothing much can be mentioned or commented about Brack, except
that he seems to be a guru at the game at which both he and Hedda seemed to be
indulged in. His callous ways together with his tricky language have caused the
one all mighty Hedda to fall prey to him, exposing the extent of his scheming
nature to the reader. It certainly allows the reader to realize his true nature
and to confirm the suspicions of Bracks ulterior motives. The presence of
Brack alone is enough to allow Tesman appear trivial and ridiculous. His
language as compared to Tesman seemed to have many underlying meanings, while
Tesmans, for an academic, seems rather superficial. Tesman, being a
worrywart, starts to fret like a young lady when informed that his appointment
might not come. He “clasps his hands together” and “flings his arms
about” asking his “dearest Hedda, how can you (she) take it all so
calmly.” Brack on the other hand, being the surely and confident self tries to
comfort him by telling him that he will “most probably get it” but “only
after a bit of competition”. Bracks calm composure and surely words
certainly outweigh Tesmans unnecessary gestures and fretful language. The
vulnerability of Tesman and Heddas marriage has also clearly been brought out
by the intrusion of Brack. The fact that Hedda would “clasp her hand at the
back of her neck, lean back in the chair and look at him” indicates how
comfortable she feels with Brack. The stichomythia in their speeches also brings
out the level of intimacy the both of them share as seen by the quote ” Brack:
A trusted and sympathetic friend… Hedda: …who can converse on all manners of
lively topics… Brack:… and whos not in the least academic” It shows how
well they complement each other, finishing each others thoughts as though
they were in a relationship themselves. As Hedda could easily pour out her woes
to a man other than her husband gives an indication of how sterile her marriage
with Tesman was. So unfruitful that they had absolutely no proper communications
between husband and wife that Hedda was glad to have a friend who could converse
with her.

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