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MonkeyNotes-Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
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THEME

The theme of the play can be described as the conflict between society and the individual. Hedda Gabler concentrates on the destructive efforts of an unfulfilled, frustrated woman. Hedda lives in a state of perpetual boredom because she dare not risk a fight with society about what is conventional and what is not. It is easier to practice hypocrisy than to endure ostracism. This is what makes her scare off Lövborg and marry Tesman who represents stolidity and respectability. In a custom-ridden society she must make the customary hunt for a husband as befits a general's daughter. Hedda is attracted towards Lövborg and curious about the side of life he confesses to her that is forbidden. She questions Lövborg indirectly about his disreputable adventures. When he proceeds to make advances to her, Hedda makes the coward's choice and threatens Lövborg with one of her father's pistols and drives him out of the house.

Since she needs to marry in order to gain economic security, she seeks out Tesman, who is delighted to marry a woman of such character and social standing. At the same time that she marries Tesman because he is safe, she is very frustrated in her marriage. She considers Tesman and his research boring. She refers to him in a very derogatory manner as a "specialist" for he is very unimaginative and does not understand her psychological and emotional needs. She is rude to Aunt Julia because the latter is not only from a lower class than Hedda but she is represents a type of woman who is reprehensible to Hedda, someone who had dedicated her life for others - Tesman, Rina and other invalids - instead of giving a free reign to her own instincts. Hedda rebels against the prospect of bearing Tesman a child because this is what society dictates should be the natural destiny of a married woman. To amuse herself under these circumstances, she forms an underhand alliance with Brack, who understands how trapped and unhappy she is. Yet he eventually exploits that position to his own advantage Brack represents the hypocrisy in a society that denies women their freedom but allows men to choose their pleasures where they will.


Tesman is also an oppressive figure of male authority. He treats Hedda as if her only ambition is to have material luxuries and he does not attempt to accommodate her needs at all. She is part of the house he has just bought and her role is to maintain the household. His life is a succession of official titles as he climbs up the ladder of success. However, his work is dry as dust and highly unoriginal. He is directly contrasted with Lövborg who fails to conform to the system and tries to facilitate Hedda's break with society by encouraging her to be with him. Hedda is too fearful of making such a departure into a life that appears unstable and unpredictable. Lövborg is the only one who openly rebels against a dead society. Yet he has written a book that panders to contemporary intellectual thought in order to receive money so that he could right the book that will reveal his unorthodox views. He, like Hedda, has had to suppress his true self in order to gain some financial stability.

Being a woman, Hedda cannot rebel like Lövborg. She is so conditioned to conform to societal norms that it results in her acute fear of scandal. By destroying the manuscript she has had no share in, she kills what could have been her and Lövborg's child rather than his and Mrs. Elvsted's. The pistols, too, represent her hidden rebellion against her limited role as a woman in this society. With them she hopes to destroy all those dead social forms prevent her from being free. Pregnant with Tesman's child, a man whom she has never loved, Hedda has become an example of society's humiliating concept of womanhood. Her suicide thus becomes a rebellion against what society deems her to be. With Brack's inexorable hold over her and deprived of freedom, Hedda takes the only choice possible. She commits a valiant suicide in order to satisfy her "crowing for life." This play is thus a powerful protest against double standards enforced in society.

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