Beauty And The Power Of Words In Hedda Gabler By Henrik Ibsen

1693 words - 7 pages

Hedda Gabler as a character speaks against the patriarchy of 19th century Europe through her desire for beauty, her power of over words, and her silence. During the first matinee performances in London in the early 1890’s, one of the women who watched the performance exclaimed, “Hedda is all of us” (Moi 436). In a society constructed by men, Hedda Gabler take the lead role in the story named after her. Henrik Isben gave Hedda’s character a sense of power in entitling the work after her. It forces the reader to recognize Hedda as a person of her own rather than as the general’s daughter or Tresman’s wife. Furthermore, in keeping her maiden name, Hedda defies society’s norms and keeps to her ...view middle of the document...

Ibsen wrote this with the realization that a female protagonist could embody the problem of freedom and meaning in a more profound, dramatic way than a male protagonist. The fact that Hedda is trapped at the end by Judge Brack by being explicitly sexualized adds to the troubles of women at this time period (Moi 435-438).
Critics often link vine leaves that Hedda often spoke to an ideal of beauty. When Hedda sent Lovborg off to the bachelor party, she was convinced that he would return with vine leave in his hair. Lovborg instead ended up drunk with ineloquent behavior at a brothel. Hedda claims that he returned without vine leaves in his hair. Although Hedda says she has lost faith in the vine leaves, she still demands to see beauty from Lovborg when she gives him the pistol to kill himself with. Toril Moi suggests that beauty without vine leaves in empty beauty; such beauty would not enlighten anyone but instead would deny them the truth. Beauty without vine leaves is the only kind of beauty that is suitable for the fallen, modern society that Hedda lived in. When Hedda finds out that Lovborg’s death was not in a delicate beauty but instead an erotic mess, she upsets herself in thinking that everything she touches turns vile (Moi 444-446). It is arguable that Hedda would think her own death was one of beauty, capturing a sense of freedom and truth that she could not obtain in her life.
Hedda strived to have a power that society would not allow her to have as a woman. She is an anti-heroine who has failed to find her way in the world as a woman with strong ideals (Nehemiah 50). Words gave her the opportunity to have her share of power, and perhaps, the possibility of liberation. In using words, Hedda discovered that she could control others. This can be seen when she convinces an unwilling Thea to discuss her current situation as to why she has left home. Thea responds upon Hedda’s manipulation; she seemingly makes Thea feel guilty about how they had not been closer of friends. Thea then explains to Hedda that she has left her husband in pursuit of Lovborg, a man whom she has partnered up with in writing (Thresher 74). Hedda’s linguistic power can be shown by Lovborg’s compliant nature toward her. At one point in the story, Lovborg even says, “What kind of power was in you that forced me to confess such things?” Hedda asks him if he thinks there was a power in her, and he responds by basically saying there is no other way to explain it.
Because of Hedda’s fascination with the written word, it is interesting to take a look at her destruction of Lovborg’s manuscript. Tresman potentially thought it was an act of love toward him since Lovborg was his rival. However, based on the presumed past relationship between Hedda and Lovborg, the reader does not draw this conclusion. Instead, the reader is faced to examine another dilemma. The manuscript was the single best representation of Thea and Lovborg’s relationship in which their time together had...

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