Hedda Gabler


HEDDA GABLER - LONG ESSAY 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. 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