How Does Henrik Ibsen’s Use of the Huldre in Hedda Gabler Influence the Characters of the Story?
How Does Henrik Ibsen’s Use of the Huldre in Hedda Gabler Influence the Characters of the Story? The gender roles of women in the Victorian age differ from today’s standards; nonetheless, they are still somewhat upheld. Female roles in Victorian society included being the wife, the mother, the household manager and the societal missionary. Some aspects of social-self versus essential-self come into play in terms of gender roles because Victorian society was rigid. For example, a small burp would lead to social ruin if it was heard. Ibsen chose to incorporate elements of the Huldre into the female characters, which is a potentially malevolent female fairy with a cow’s tail and maiden’s glow. This thereby fuses the theme of gender roles in the conflict of the main character’s Huldre-like traits. The play contains several references to Huldre-like traits that the female characters exhibit. For example, in Act II on page 144, Hedda refuses to show her ankles: Hedda: I never jump out.
Hedda: No—because there is always someone standing by to…. Brack: …To look at your ankles, do you mean?
Ibsen could hardly provide Hedda with a cow’s tail. However, he seems to have come close. The display of her legs compromises her desire to live respectably in society just as the exposure of the huldre’s tail comprises hers. From this example, one can tell that Hedda purportedly has something to hide on her legs, a quality that the Huldre also possesses. There is an undeniable similarity between Hedda’s attempt to hide her legs and the Huldre’s attempt to hide her lower half. If they are as similar as they appear in this regard, their motivation for doing so would be to assimilate successfully with humans and seem as human-like as possible. Hedda is clearly a human, but because she is so closely linked to a Huldre, she must make efforts to fit in within her social standing, as seen in the quote, “…I have such a dread of scandal… [I am] a terrible coward” (Ibsen 152). Yet an additional similarity is the irrefutable closeness of the name “Hedda” and the word “huldre.” Both persons are so similar, denying Ibsen’s intent on creating a literal similarity between the two would be foolish. Hedda is very concerned with appearances and reputation, and one example of this one can see in her attempts to shape one’s destiny, Mrs. Elvsted: You have a hidden motive in this, Hedda!
Hedda: Yes, I have. I want for once in my life to have power to mold a human destiny Mrs. Elvsted: Have you not the power?
Hedda: I have not—and have never had it. (Ibsen 155)
From this quote, Hedda seems to be a craving control over another. But taking a closer look, one can observe that her strong desire to control another person is her way of breaking social norms. In the play, it is observed that Hedda convinced Lovborg to attend Brack’s orgy despite protests coming from Thea. Thea knew that if Eilert would attend the orgy, he would start drinking and have a relapse, but Hedda silenced Thea. Despite Thea’s efforts, Eilert went and inevitably became inebriated. Mrs. Elvsted: Hedda, Hedda, what will come of all this?
Hedda: At ten o’clock he will be here. I can see him already—with vine leaves in his hair—flushed and fearless— Mrs. Elvsted: Oh, I hope he may.
Hedda: And then, you see, then he will have regained control over himself. Then he will be a free man for all his days.
Mrs. Elvsted: Oh God! If he would only come as you see him now! (Ibsen 155) Hedda ultimately had her way and Eilert was seemingly ruined by the end of the night because of her meddling. Eilert’s actions of getting drunk were not socially acceptable to the Victorian way of life. Hedda wanted Eilert to have a relapse, presumably to destroy him and Thea for their relationship (her jealousy coming through to the surface) and to have a window into the deplorable...
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