Placed in similar crises as previous Ibsen heroines, Hedda Gabler faces an impasse in her life. Sharing Nora's craving for freedom and Mrs. Alving's compliance with social conventions, Hedda finds no outlet for her personal demands; she is constantly torn between her aimless desire for freedom and her commitment to standards of social appearance. Refusing to submit to her womanly destiny, Hedda has such an unsatisfied craving for life that she is incapable of being emotionally involved with others.
When Nora Helmer recognized her own unsatisfied needs, she left her husband and children. Considering her most "sacred duty" was to find herself, she left home to discover her personal worth through facing life's experiences before being able to relate to others. Like Nora, Hedda Gabler is a stranger to herself. However, lacking Nora's daring and defiance of conventions, she is unable to undergo the trials of self-evaluation and becomes a morbidly self-vindictive, destructive virago, capable only to strike out against the successful socially conforming individuals who represent an implicit reproach to her uninformed cravings. In the play, Ibsen provides enough information to show how Hedda's problem is the product of her special background.
Raised by her military father, Hedda must have grown up in an atmosphere of strict discipline and conformity to rules. Becoming a beautiful sought-after young woman, she attended many social affairs but never found anyone to marry; probably she was not rich enough to interest the eligible bachelors of high social standing.
As a product of the nineteenth century, when women were destined to become either respectable old maids like George's aunts or humble housekeepers like Mrs. Elvsted, Hedda is an anomaly. Instead of preparing his daughter for wifehood or motherhood, General Gabler taught her to ride and shoot, skills symbolic of the military mystique which became for Hedda the basis of her... [continues]
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