Many writers in the history of English literature tried their best to defend the rights of women through their work. Hedda Gabler is one of those plays that promotes feminism through its main theme of “Women’s Liberation” due to which it is called a feminist play. It should also not be underestimated that on the one hand if it encourages feminism then on the other hand it has also been regarded as a play of destruction. It is too noteworthy that Henrik Ibsen has represented a male-dominated society in this play and many modern critics are of the opinion that Hedda Gabler’s success lies on the main theme of “Male Dominance”. Meaning thereby that Hedda Gabler has more themes related to male domination than to feminism, therefore, the play is under objection in the category of feminist literature.
Hedda Gabler is not the only play in which Ibsen practised feminism. In many of his plays, directly or indirectly he has represented this theme, however, Hedda Gabler has gained fame just because of its major character Hedda, who suffers because of her ambitions in a male-dominated society. She cannot make her future secure with her husband, henceforth, she has no other option except to leave the world. Resultantly, she commits suicide.
Ibsen was of the view that there was a time when women were not allowed to take part in any household activity except marriage and motherhood. Hedda Gabler cannot accept this fact and kills herself and for this purpose, she uses General Gabler’s pistol which symbolically represents the weapons of men. As a result, somehow we can say that the play Hedda Gabler is a feminist play as it talks about the rights of women in society.
Problems of Hedda Gabler:
It is very much necessary to discuss some of the important psychological problems that Hedda faces during the course of her married life. Justifying Hedda mere victim of circumstances would never be poetic justice because it is crystal clear from the script of drama that she herself brings her downfall. Nonetheless, it is required to be criticized whether she was being deprived of women’s rights or not through which it can be proved that Hedda Gabler is a feminist play.
George Tesman, husband of Hedda and her ex-lover Eilert Loevborg try to secure their positions, for which they do efforts. It means that they both compete with each other professionally. Hedda is not interested in their positions nor does she support any of them. Neither is she interested in her husband’s success nor has she any interest in what Eilert Loevborg writes. She only competes with Thea and that too not professionally but greedily. She wants to control the minds of the aforementioned two major characters by hook or crook. It seems that she has no other project. If security was an issue for him then it is clear from the play that she was successfully married to George Tesman and security remained no more issue for her. Even then, she wanted to ruin people while confusing their minds.
Hedda Gabler as a Feminist Play:
If the society presented in the play is a male-dominated society then why the name of the play is Hedda Gabler instead of Hedda Tesman? We know that the play does not start with the love relationship between Hedda and George Tesman. It starts when they have already become a couple. They have already married each other even before the play starts. The question arises in the mind why did not Henrik Ibsen change the name of the play to Hedda Tesman? It is because Henrik Ibsen wanted to portray the domination of men over women of that era.
George Tesman is known as a professor (or would-be professor) and Eilert Loevborg is a writer. What is Hedda’s identity? She is nothing if we talk only about her. She is dependent on others. If someone, including Judge Brack, knows her then it is only because of her father’s fame. She is the daughter of General Gabler. Apart from this, she has no other recognition.
Hedda Gabler and Feminist Literature?
Hardly, any female character in the play is independent. Everyone has to look for men in order to survive. It is obvious from the play that without men, no woman can survive; not even Hedda Gabler. It is also evident that marriage is the only option for them. Hedda was in her thirties, therefore, she strongly was in need of a life partner. It is, therefore, she marries George Tesman. The same is the case with Thea. She is in love with Eilert Loevborg not because she really likes him but because she needs him. Henrik Ibsen has presented a society where women must have a life partner in order to survive, failing which it is much more difficult for them to live.
It is also a matter of fact that women of that era did not have any knowledge of the outside world. It is not wrong to say that they were not allowed to speak on a matter that was related to outdoor activities. Thea on the other hand is entirely different from Hedda Gabler. She is the one who nurtures Eilert Loevborg and helps him to stand and make a lofty eminence in the vicinity. Henrik Ibsen has made a comparison between the two to make it clear that many types of women exist in the world; no matter in which society we are living.
Hedda Fears Scandals:
Hedda Gabler can be regarded as a feminist play, set in a male-dominated society, however, at the same time, it is also true that Hedda fears scandals. She wants to live a peaceful and happy life yet she is a coward. People like Judge Brack can easily blackmail him. She does not face him and does not accept her crime; rather she chooses death. She can’t live a life in which she has to answer each and every person she knows.
Definitely, Hedda lives in a society that belongs to men. Women have very less choices. Men can happily enjoy parties and meals but women are not allowed to do so. Men can have affairs but that is not a big deal. Women are not permitted to do any such thing. Hedda becomes a mental patient just because of this reason.
To conclude, there is no denying the fact that Hedda Gabler is among those ladies, who have not been given proper rights. Critics have rightly agreed and rightly expressed their opinion that the play Hedda Gabler loudly speaks on the issue of feminisms, therefore, it must be added in the list of feminist plays. Henrik Ibsen has manifestly portrayed feminist issues in the play Hedda Gabler while showing that there are a lot of differences in genders in our society even in modern times.