Feminism in The Doll’s House & Hedda Gabler
To an average reader, at first glance, Henrik Ibsen’s plays Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House are just an entertaining read. However a more in-depth study of the text shows that throughout A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler Ibsen makes use of symbols, motifs and circular conclusions to demonstrate the development of two housewives throughout the late 19th century.
One of the ways that Ibsen shows this is symbolism. Throughout Hedda Gabler the symbols that Ibsen presents are: the piano that Hedda plays shortly before her death, General Gabler’s two pistols, Tesman’s slippers, the portrait of General Gabler and the manuscript. The latter hangs in ...view middle of the document...
This is clearly seen when he speaks of how the slippers conjure up memories of his childhood and his two aunts, which are obviously happy memories as he is saying these things happily. This is what brings Hedda to comment on the old bonnet that the maid had left on the chair, which was a shot at George Tesman's aunt as well as himself.
At this point in the play we learn that Hedda has more than likely been sheltered all of her life, since she is around 28 years old and now living with a man that, amongst all of her lovers, was the only one that offered marriage and a promising economic future(Cliff, 37). She is finally growing sick of her circumstances and the way that she has been living (which is why she takes such interest in other people's lives, because she has never really lead one of her own) which is why she is so brash with the people that she's dealing with (such as George Tesman's Aunt). Her abrasiveness is a sign of her apathetic views towards anyone else that appears to be experiencing happiness. Ibsen also points out that this is the typical life of a female during this time, as it is clear that George Tesman feels his duties as a husband essentially revolve around making the home a nice play for Hedda to be, so that she has no desire to leave, which is why he ultimately apologises to her for not being able to provide her the necessities of the home. His assumption obviously doesn't go over well with Hedda, as you can tell by her conversations with Judge Brack, where she reveals her over boredom with the life she is leading(Cliff, 37).
So far, Ibsen's story of Hedda Gabler is quite similar to Nora Helmer's from A Dolls House. Like Hedda, Nora has gone from living with her father to living with her husband - perhaps not a bad thing, except that they were both quick to assume that Nora has no real purpose except to remain in the household. Nora has been sheltered her entire life, and her main concern appears to be the material wealth that her husband is starting to accumulate. This is shown with her reputation as a spendthrift, which she inherited from her father.
Ibsen touches a lot on the gender issue, and it is apparent that each female heroine in these two stories possesses an 'active and energetic mind' and seek power to compensate for their lack of freedom; a direct result of their gender.(Hancock, 2). This desire for power can be seen in Hedda during Act 2, when she expresses frustration at being able to push her husband in to a political career. She also uses the portrait of General Gabler almost as a way of reminding Tesman that she is a direct relation to a man of great power. This is also clear when she says "General Gablers pistols!" in mockery of Tesman. Hedda's fondness of her father's power is not to mention that it didn't have an effect on her childhood, however. Since Gabler was a General, it is more than likely that Hedda was brought up in a household that was prone to many rules and regulations - all of which...