Hedda Gabler: New Woman
On the surface, Hedda Gablers’ independent, socially unacceptable, and indifferent attitude often portrays her as being a new woman. The way in which she continues to refer to herself as Hedda Gabler, though her married name is Tessman; or the way in which she replies curtly, “I am exactly as I was when I started” (Ibsen ) to Tessman’s comment about her filling out all seem to support the claim, as many of Hedda’s actions and comments alone do. However, in digging deeper into the work, and after understanding and analyzing Hedda’s actions as a whole, it can be seen that her efforts to be a new woman are in fact futile.
Instead, Hedda’s character ultimately fall into three major roles of a stereo-typical woman; of a damsel in distress, a harlot, and a monstrous woman. The role of a damsel in distress applies somewhat differently to Hedda’s character, as opposed to the typical princess being trapped in a tower, waiting for her prince charming to save her. Hedda, for one, is no princess. She is instead a young, beautiful woman from a rich upper class family with no regard what so ever for anyone but herself and her games. Exemplifying the stereotypical woman of this social class, she is snooty as well as materialistic.
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Her marriage with Tessman for example, was solely in the best interest of her materialistic concerns. When explaining this to Brack, she states, “… he was bent, at all hazards, on being allowed to provide for me–I really don’t know why I should not have accepted his offer” (Ibsen ). She felt no connection with him, but rather married him on the basis that he would be able to fulfill her craving for materialistic goods. Her plan however backfires on her, and she soon realizes she is throughly bored and that she despises being in that lower social class.
In her eyes, her marriage to Tessmen was committing social suicide. Thus Hedda becomes the damsel in distress, aching to be saved from her married life, as well as the social constraints that come along with it. As for her prince charming, it is quite clear that it is not Tessman, but Eiliert Lovborg. Lovborg’s character is everything Hedda yearns for; independence from social constraints and being able to express his true self to the society. However, in the end Lovborg fails to save her, because his suicide was not a final representation of what she admired in him, but the exact opposite.
Lovborgs murder showed his loss of control over himself and in a way Hedda’s control over him. As a result, Hedda commits suicide by shooting herself through the temple; her final attempt to control her life and escape the constraints. Hedda Gablers’ role as a harlot is quite obvious throughout the novel, most clearly when dealing with Brack. From the beginning, Brack is not hesitant in suggesting a “tete-a-tete” by stating that he thinks “marriage to be an institution” then going on to say all one required was a private and intimate place.
Hedda, promiscuous as she is, plays along immediately, even revealing her hidden desires to “add a third” in her life. Hedda reaction, with knowledge of her character, is not surprising. During her so called honeymoon with Tessman, Hedda becomes deathly bored. She realizes the type of life she has condemned herself to, and begins dreading every moment of it. An affair with Brack offers Hedda an ready escape, from both the boredom and her married life. Aside from boredom, Hedda’s endless desires to have control also may contribute in her role as a harlot.
The ability to carry on an affair with Brack would prove, at least to herself, that she can still be in control of her own life. In addition, her previous realtionship with Lovborg also indicates she is somewhat of a harlot, even in her younger days. To classify a woman as being monstrous is a rather strong statement. Hedda however does not fall short of this accusation. Aside from ruining lives soley as an answer to her boredom, her monstrous ways even eventually leads to the death of the one man she may have actually truly loved, and intentionally so.
When Lovborg, for example, tells Thea that he had shredded their beloved manuscript, Thea is lost as to why he would do such a thing. Together, Lovborg and Thea had put their all into the manuscript, to the point where it was much like their very own child. Lovborg then proceeds to tell Thea that because he had shred the manuscript, their life together now had no future, and that they must part ways. Thea, who had left her family, and in a sense her reputation, runs away throughly distraught. All the while, Hedda had stood by, witnessing all but saying nothing, even though she had the power to keep two peoples lives from ruining.
For Hedda knew. She knew not only that Lovborg had lied to Thea about the manuscript, but she also knew where it was… in her possession. She knew that keeping Lovborg and Thea from their beloved child would tear them apart, and yet… she did it anyways. After Thea leaves, Lovborg confesses to Hedda that he had not ruined the manuscript himself, but had in fact lost it in his drunken stupor the night before. Hedda fakes sympathy and understanding… aonly to egg on Lovborgs idea of committing suicide. She not only provides Lovborg with her pistol, but then goes on to advise him to do it “beautifully”.
However, The most solid evidence of Hedda’s wicked mind is proven in her odd interest to kill children. For once Lovborg leaves, Hedda pulls out the pages of Lovborg’s manuscript, and slowly throws each page into the fire, all the while saying, “Now I am burning your child, Thea! –Burning it, curly-locks! Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s. I am burning–I am burning your child” (Ibsen ). could Such actions, ones of ruining and ending lives, even those of children can only be the work of a monstrous woman. A woman like Hedda Gabler.