Henrik accompanied by retaliation from women. The character

Henrik Ibsen’s, Hedda Gabler, is set against a background of a Victorian society in
Norway. Such a society was patriarchal, thus rightfully accompanied by
retaliation from women. The character which accurately portrays this
retaliation is Hedda Gabler. Hedda is a complex character as she is seen to be
trapped by societal expectations and unable to express herself. Though Hedda is
pre-occupied with the idea that she is able to dictate her life, disregarding
expectations, it is evident that she is victim in the Victorian society. Hedda
is forced to abide by the expectations she attempts to avoid; she is influenced
into motherhood, she is trapped in a poor marriage and is forced to alive a
life dominated by men. In retaliation, she begins to manipulate others, in an
attempt to live a life she has been deprived of. However, it is this
retribution, which influences her undoing and death. It is at this critical
moment, when the audience become aware of the unjust treatment Hedda has faced
due to societal expectations.


Ibsen first portrays the societal
pressures placed upon Hedda Gabler through the subtle hints of motherhood. In
the Victorian-era the duty of women was to become mothers, however Hedda
disregards this thought. For instance, on page 230, Tesman begins to describe
how Hedda has physically changed over the course of their honeymoon. He states,
“But have you noticed how plump and buxom she’s grown” (Ibsen 230). Imagery is
used effectively by Ibsen to illustrate Hedda’s pregnancy. Figurative speech including,
“plump” (Ibsen 230) and “buxom” (Ibsen 230), are words which are associated
with pregnant women. Though Tesman does not directly suggest Hedda is pregnant,
it can be implied she is. Hedda however is in denial. She denies such
assumptions made by Tesman as she states, “Oh do be quiet” (Ibsen 230) and “Oh
you can’t see anything” (Ibsen 230). Despite Hedda being a woman in a
patriarchal society, she does not want to abide by the expectations placed upon
her. Tesman’s subtle hints regarding Hedda’s pregnancy renders Hedda to a point
where she retaliates against children and the thought of motherhood.

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occurs during the final scene in Act III where Hedda “throws the pages into the
stove and whispers to herself I’m burning your child Thea … I’m burning
it! I’m burning your child!” (Ibsen 288). This violent depiction represents Heddas
resentment of motherhood. Ibsen utilizes repetition of the word “burning”
(Ibsen 288) and “child” (Ibsen 288) to reiterate that Hedda’s violent outburst
is directed towards the intuition of motherhood. Furthermore, there is no
resentment in Hedda’s voice, but rather, she is relishing the moment. Hedda
once a respected women now relishes the moment of burning a “child”, as she has
been influenced into a pregnancy she does not want. It is the expectation of
becoming a mother in a society, which partly influences her undoing.


Furthermore, Hedda’s victimization is
seen through Hedda and Tesman’s marriage. Hedda is seen to stray away from
feminine behavior and thus is marginalized and forced to marry in fear of
punishment. For instance, when conversing with Judge Brack, she states “I had danced
myself tired judge. My day was done – with a slight shudder. Oh no – I won’t
say that; nor think it either.” (Ibsen 251). It is here where Hedda suggests
she married as she had too. In a Victorian society, as the one in the play,
women were influenced to marry prior to a specific age, if not they were
reprimanded. Within this quotation, Hedda metaphorically describes her life as
a single women as a “dance” (Ibsen 251) or a positive time. Hedda claims her
life was positive prior to her marriage. Heddas distress is pertinent as she
reflects on her marriage. Hedda’s time had run out of time as a single woman,
and was forced to marry.


This lack of respect in the marriage is
seen further as Hedda strays away from the intuition of love and marriage. In a
conversation with Judge Brack she states, “Faugh- don’t use that sickening
word!” (Ibsen 250). Here Hedda uses the word “sickening” (Ibsen 250). To
describe love, the two contrasting words shows illustrates the condition of
Hedda’s marriage. It is further indicated Hedda does not love Tesman. It is
seen that Hedda had chosen Tesman for his respectability and his socio-economic
status. She indicates Tesman was the best of many evils. However, due to Heddas
poor marriage she feels deprived as she is forced in Tesman’s company, and is
consoled by the fact that Tesman is powerful. Hedda’s forceful marriage renders
her to a point where the only way to escape is to commit suicide.


Ibsen further establishes Hedda as a
victim of societal pressures through the repetition of the patriarchal system.
Such a system influenced Hedda to abide by expectations and live a life she had
not wanted. Within eh play, for instance, Hedda attempts to utilize her father’s
pistols, however she is reprimanded for doing so, “Your pistols! With cold eyes.
General Gabler’s pistols” (Ibsen 247). Pistols in a patriarchal system are seen
to be a male object, which women should not use. Tesman as seen quickly corrects
Hedda, who claims the pistols are her own. The pistols are referred to as
“General Gabler’s pistols” (Ibsen 247), not her own. Such restrictions stopped
Hedda’s from her only activity, thus creating a “boring” life. Ibsen further utilizes
the expression “(with cold eyes)” (Ibsen 247), to represent the anger Hedda has
towards society. Such a phrase engraves into the mind of the reader who are
then able to reinforce their understanding of Heddas victimization.


The influence of the patriarchal system
on Hedda is further evident, during Heddas conversations with Judge Brack.  In a state of distress she states, “oh, my
dear Brack, how dreadfully bored I have been” (Ibsen 250). Hedda’s admittance
of the truth reveals the limitations she feels due to the expectations upon her.
Further on, Hedda states she will manipulate Tesman to pursue a career in politics,
as she is bored, “why would you want to drive him into it? Because I am bored, I
tell you” (Ibsen 256). Hedda once again reiterates she is bored, thus any new
action will appease her boredom. It is indicated that this boredom which
influenced her undoing. It is clear within this quotation that Hedda will
manipulate other in an attempt to appease her boredom. Hedda unable to live her
life attempts to live her life through others, unfortunately contributing to
her gradual demise.


In Ibsen’s, Hedda Gabler, the background of the Victorian society victimizes
the character of Hedda Gabler. Within the play, Hedda is a human being in transformation
who is influenced to become a mother. Hedda is unable to respond clearly due to
the patriarchal system. The use of metaphors and repetition further evokes
pathos as Hedda is unable to escape. The play further victimizes Hedda through
the repetition of the forced marriage. Hedda who is forced to marry due to her
age, is now married to Tesman, one who she married due to socio status. The
presence of this sickening relationship lead to boredom in Hedda’s life, a
boredom due to the inability to perform activities due to the gender. It is
this boredom which influences Hedda’s gradual demise.