Hedda Gabler

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Thomas Johnson

English 209


The Admirable Qualities of Hedda Gabler

Great characters in literature often stand out because they possess some quality, trait or even in some cases flaws that separate them from all the others. There is something about them that makes them unique and worth remembering. Great characters withstand the test of time as they manage to hold their appeal, throughout which countless generations continue to enjoy them. Hedda Gabler the main character in Henrik Ibsen’s famous play, is such a character, despite her flaws. Many would argue that Hedda is not great at all; based on some of her actions throughout the play, they could easily say that she was merely nothing but a shallow, jealous wife who was only concerned for her own well being. Even in a brief synopsis of the play Hedda is referred to as, “bored… with life fueled by jealously, social ambition, and a need to dominate others, [and] who lead to the death of a former admirer” (Jarvi 1). Although that can be argued, nevertheless she was a great character and should be admired. Hedda Gabler should be admired because she was a forced to marry due to the social structure of her time period, she was a free-willed spirit who spoke her mind despite being a woman, and she was smart enough realize that she had the power to bend people to her will. Because of these reasons her character should be thought highly of, not chastised. Many great literary characters are remembered because of their flaws, sometimes a character discovers those flaws can actually help them realize what true greatness really is. Hedda used her character flaws to her own avail, she had already made the realization that flaws can be used a strength given the right situation.

The time period in which Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” takes place holds strict social rules over women. Women when compared to men of the same time had virtually no rights. They lacked the power to vote and were held to certain expectations that society laid out for them. One expectation that hung over Hedda was that she was getting a little too old not have been married. Typical women of the day were married several years younger than Hedda was. People would begin to think less of a woman who was not married by a certain age range. Hedda seemed to feel as if she had no other alternative than to find someone to marry her. “Hedda must bear the responsibility for the marriage, however. As she acknowledges, she had been the one to fashion it, not from love, but from her need for comfort and respectability… she is [a] victim”(Answers 15). She had apparently wasted time with Lovborg in a relationship with no future, not to mention countless suitors, because it was stated that she was a beautiful woman,” Look … how charming and attractive she is…Hedda’s been lovely all her life” (Ibsen 1417). Hedda dreaded scandals of any sort; “Oh I’m much too afraid of scandal” (Ibsen 1441). She realized that she had no other choice than to marry the first willing and acceptable suitor even if that person did not fit her ideal match. Unfortunately for Hedda she ended up marrying someone who would turn out to be her total opposite, despite the fact that the alternative would be even less pleasant in her and everyone else’s mind. Hedda deserves recognition of this; one must admire the ability in her to cope with such an unfair moral social system. Had the mores of the time not been so rigid and unflinching, perhaps she would have never married at all. Constant worrying about her standings in the eyes of everyone else must have been a heavy burden to bear indeed.

How often would people like to have the ability to go back in time if only to speak what was truly on their mind in certain situations because they lacked the courage to do so the first time? People who possess the unique ability to speak their true mind hold admiration in many people’s eyes. Hedda was quick to speak her mind, “Look, she’s left...
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