Feminism in the Works Medea and Hedda Gabbler

Topics: Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen, Women's suffrage Pages: 5 (2005 words) Published: March 7, 2008
Feminism is a significant ideal that has changed everything for women in modern society, slowly destroying the inequality between genders. Feminism is concerned with the liberation of women from the subordination to men -- it is the reason why women's roles in society continue to evolve; for example, women gaining the right to vote, employment at more equitable wages, the right to initiate divorce proceedings, the right to obtain contraception and safe abortion, free speech and the right to university education. Indeed in several nations, men now are outnumbered by women both high school graduation rates and university enrollment. In the past, however, women dared not to object society's rules on the idyllic woman, for they feared being insulted and degraded for acting "inappropriately". Many might have even wished to go against these rules -- imposed by men -- at times, but their courage was often stifled. In the Greek tragedy Medea and in the Scandinavian play Hedda Gabler, Euripides and Henrik Ibsen portray women who are stronger than their male counterparts and are not afraid to fight for what they want. In these two plays, we encounter women ahead of their times, who incorporate the ideal feminist woman: intelligent, powerful and daring. Women have more often been seen as merely useful for childbearing and serving men, so many women in the past did not accomplish much more. In Hedda Gabler, however, the female characters astonish most men and readers by daring to do things so unlike any other women of their time; characters like Mrs.Elvsted show true courage and grit. At first, Mrs.Elvsted can easily be viewed as a vulnerable and weak individual; she is a woman of fragile figure with soft features, and seems to be dependent on Lovborg and their relationship. When he tells her he no longer requires her services in writing the manuscript she despairingly asks him "then what am I to do with my life?" (Ibsen 56). And quite often she demonstrates fear of Hedda, such as when Hedda jokingly menaces her of putting her hair on fire and Mrs.Elvsted shouts "let me go! Let me go! I'm afraid of you Hedda! " (Ibsen 45). She may seem like a feeble and cowardly character at first, but she proves to be a truly intrepid woman. Hedda herself tells Mrs.Elvsted "Why, my dear, good Thea - to think of you daring to do it!" (Ibsen 17), after finding out that Mrs.Elvsted ran away from home without her husband's knowledge or permission. At that time it was unthinkable for a woman to do something without their husband's consent (let alone leave him), but like many women today, Mrs.Elvsted wanted to do what was best for her, undaunted by the consequences. That is proven when Hedda asks her "But what do you think people will say of you, Thea?" and she answers, "They may say what they like, for aught I care. I have done nothing but what I had to do" (Ibsen 18). For someone who seems to be daunted by her own shadow, Mrs.Elvsted impresses others around her with such comments, which show no fear of breaking the rules. She also shows boldness when talking about her husband and not holding back that, "everything about him is repellent to me!" (Ibsen 17). Mrs.Elvsted's initial façade masquerades a gutsy woman who is not willing to let any man ruin her life. Hedda Gabler, the protagonist of this same play, can be mistaken for being aggressive and direct, but this impression comes from her fearlessness in being bold (a foreign concept in that era). Hedda shocks Mrs.Elvsted, telling her that her ultimate goal in life is "to have power to mould a human destiny" (Ibsen 45). This is an extremely audacious aim, but Hedda proves to be capable of such audacity. She accomplishes this through manipulation; for example, she helps her husband's dream of writing a spectacular book come true by planning Lovborg's death and the destruction of his manuscripts. During her time, it would also be unthinkable for a woman to be handling tools like weapons, but Hedda is...
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