Tagged: Hedda Gabler
January 8, 2018 at 11:08 pm #442
In the novel by Henrik Ibsen ‘Hedda Gabler’ there is a complete sense of feeling, culture, tradition, and restriction within the pages of the story. The women in story of Hedda Gabler serve mainly as caregivers, always taking care of the needs of men over their own. Aunt Julle has accepted the role of this and is the perfect symbol for what a women should be. Society had given women the roles as guardians of the home and the entire family, as well as being the perfect housewife of the families.
In act one, page 271, Tesman says, “Oh, Aunt Julle, you will never be tired of sacrificing yourself for me.” Since Tesman has no mother or father, Aunt Julle has practically raised him. And this gave me sense that Julle has an empty life. She is the caretaker and devotes her life to looking after the family, including her sister. She enjoys giving things up for people, especially for George, when she says “Have I any other joy in the world but in smoothing the way for you, my dear boy?” She has this need to take care of someone, and will always sacrifice her personal life for someone else. I guess what I’m saying is: she’s the perfect woman.
Having an empty life, and taking care of Tesman. It makes me wonder about Aunt Julle’s “personal” life. Women in the 1800s were completely different then those of today. A women’s place in society was to be at home, being the caregiver to the family. A woman’s only career was marriage. She was seen as an instrument and tool. Women back then were innocent and sweet, kind and virtuous. Women were to be weak and helpless, fragile like a flower and incapable of comprehending political viewpoints. Their main job was bearing children and keeping the house stress-free for the husband so he didn’t have to bother with domestic matters. Women, especially those with money, were supposed to spend there time reading, sewing, dressing for the part of a lady. The typical image society wants a women to be. They want them to put men first. Women’s god-given role was to be a wife and a mother. Children were to be protected and nurtured. And since Tasman had no mother or father, Aunt Julle had to be that caregiver. Many women were controlled by the lives of men, either by their father, brothers, male relatives. Their sole purpose was to find a husband, reproduce and then spending the rest of their lives serving them like slaves. Being unmarried, or a spinster, was looked down upon, and since Aunt Julle and never mentioned to have been married, her life is of George, always serving him.
Women had fewer rights then men, being a wife and mother was their main purpose in that time of era. Aunt Julle has fully embraced the traditional roles as a caregiver, so much she intends to take on another ‘invalid” as a houseguest. But it’s Hedda who distains the mere thought of being a mother. Hedda is the new modern women who pushes against the binds of being a woman imposed on by society, whereas Aunt Julle is the ideal, traditional, lady who is the self-sacrificed, dutiful woman.
Ibsen dramatizes the consequences of being a women in a sexist society. If you follow through what society wants, you live long enough to become the crone of the family.
January 10, 2018 at 12:53 am #445
I agree with some general points made here. It is commonly acknowledged that nineteenth century gender roles were restrictive compared to our current year. However, I have to take issue with the reductionist claim that Aunt Julle’s life is empty on account of her embodying the caregiver archetype. On the contrary, it’s entirely possible that she might find a great deal more satisfaction in this than in any other role. Granted, nobody ought to feel forced to be a caregiver, but it’s not clear from the text alone that anyone has forced her into this (aside from the author and time period), and I would hesitate to say she has zero agency considering she might have chosen such a life regardless.
The large majority of people in any given era are conformists to the social mores of their time. Convention is more like gravity than a gun to your head (unless you live under authoritarianism). One feels compelled to fit in, and if both men and women respond more positively to a woman who cares for others, then more and more women will try to take on that role until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. In modern urban centres, the opposite could be said to be true. Women who are merely caregivers or young mothers are easily denigrated, so if a woman is anything less than an astronaut, then one might argue that she simply hasn’t lived up to her potential and is a victim of an oppressive system. All social pressures, even when they are a net good, have always been, and always will be, by nature, oppressive.
To touch briefly on the protagonist – Hedda Gabler makes a great contrast to the “virtuous” Aunt Julle. She is indeed acting out against her social constraints and perceived lack of meaning, and could be said to be an early (though evil) prototype of the “modern woman”. She is smart, rebellious, dangerous, and wryly humorous. Interestingly, the men appear to have no problem with this, and even treat her with perhaps more respect on account of her brazen nature. For instance, the fragile Mrs. Elvsted would be guarded from hearing uncomfortable truths, whereas the men had no difficulty speaking plainly to Hedda. This demonstrates that convention can be flouted, to an extent, if one’s willpower is stronger than the collective willpower of social conservatives.
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