Hedda Gabler, the protagonist, in Henrik Ibsen’s play A General’s Daughter is a woman from a wealthy family. The play starts when she returns with her husband from their honeymoon. Her life changes when she gets married to a gentle, hated man. She gets back home a discontented woman. Her discontent is indicated in the play by her outward annoyance with the maid and her husband’s aunt. Although her husband earns a decent livelihood as a scholar, he couldn’t accord her the same lifestyle that she was accustomed to in her father’s home. This is the part of the reasons for her discontent, her marriage to Tesman changes her lifestyle from a live of luxury to just getting by life. The only pleasure in her new life comes from playing with her father’s pistol. Her husband realizes that she is bored and suggests that she gets amusement from a third person. This implies that she can get out of boredom if she gets a child meaning that he is seducing her. She is, however, not interested in her husband romantically and spends most of her time prying into Mrs. Elvsted’s affairs. Her interest in Mrs. Thea Elvsted’s affairs is in the hope of discovering her secrets out of jealousy. Hedda, in her childhood, treated Thea with cruelty, and she treated her in an openly angry manner (Ibsen, 2006). This is because there are rumors that Thea is seeing Lovobory a man that Hedda had a relationship with before marrying Tesman. So, her spite for Thea is out of jealousy and her discontent with her marriage to a less brilliant man.
Lovobory is a man who is considered as a literal genius, and has recently written an unpublished book rumored to be his best. He is, therefore, highly esteemed as a scholar unlike Hedda’s husband, who is not a notable scholar, and does not command any social pull. Hedda is, therefore, angry and jealous of Thea, who Lovobory loves, and she clearly still has feelings for him. Hedda’s relationship with Lovobory did not end cordially since she had threatened to shoot him. Her jealousy because of his love for Thea tells us that she still has feelings for him, especially now that he has high social status and is considered to be a brilliant scholar; unlike her moderate husband.
Lovobory, on a visit to her home, confesses that he is still fascinated by her, but, for fear of a scandal, she rejects him and scorns him with icy word. Lovobory is humiliated by her rejection and starts to drink again. Hedda’s husband and his colleague praise Lovobory book when he reads it to them at a stag party (Ibsen, 2006). The manuscript is, however, lost when he gets drunk only to be found by Hedda. Hedda is aware that Lovobory who had stopped writing got the inspiration to write again from Thea when they started having an affair. She, therefore, perceives the manuscript as a product of their affair. Out of jealousy she burns the manuscript and confesses on hiding the book to her husband explaining that she did it for his career. In other words, a remarkably brilliant and successful book from Lovobory would have been inappropriate for Tesman’s career. Through her actions, Hedda is portrayed not only as a jealous, bitter woman, but also extremely manipulative and evil. This portrays her as a woman who would do anything to improve her husband lackluster career in order to move up the social ladder.
Lovobory confesses to Hedda his wish to commit suicide, but instead of helping, she encourages him to go ahead and gives him one of her father’s pistols. Lovobory eventually commits suicide and in his memory Tesman and Thea decide to reconstruct his manuscript from his notes. Hedda’s husband suspects that there was more to her and Lovobory, but she does not admit. Instead, she describes Lovobory to him as a man who lived by his own rule up to the end (Ibsen, 2006).
Jorge discovers that Lovobory used Hedda’s pistol to commit suicide and threatens to expose her unless she slept with him. After giving into his blackmail, she commits suicide too by shooting her temple.
This play was written in the 1800s when women were expected to be docile. Both Thea and Hedda can be considered as feminists since in those eras married women were not allowed to have affairs. However, in the play, Thea’s marriage becomes cold, so she looks for another man to fulfill her happiness. Hedda, on the other hand, had a relationship with Lovobory before she got married to Tesman (Ibsen, 2006). This relationship ended with Hedda threatening to shoot Lovobory. This behavior was certainly out of character for women in the 1800s. These women are, therefore, portrayed in this play as women who were ahead of their time. This depiction of women defying the tradition helps address the feminist theory in Henrik Ibsen’s play.
The author describes Miss Julie as a weak woman with a degenerate brain. Her miserable lifestyle is a result of her sickness. She suffers from hysteria, a disease that was considered to affect the female gender only. During this period, hysteria in women was perceived to affect women who did not have sex relations. With regard to Miss Julie’s case, her mother had trained her to hate men, and reject their sexual advances. She was, therefore, disgusted by men, but at the same time her body desires made her attracted to them. This symbolism is used by the author to depict the early stages of women seeking equality.
When Strindberg was writing his book, women had fewer rights than men. Men controlled not only their lives, but also their sexuality. They were treated as sexual objects. Thus, those who failed to conform to this image were seen as hysterical and suffering from a mental disease. For Miss Julie to be classified as hysterical, it implies that she was an early feminist who refused to have men define her. She is also depicted as sadistic when she tries to use a whip to train Jean. We can argue that the author uses the horse whip to signify gender equality. Miss Julie’s decision to commit suicide symbolizes her refusal to conform to the regressive roles that women had assumed.
Feminism and Anti-Feminist Themes
Feminism theme is also addressed in the play through the depiction of Hedda as a woman in control. When Henrik Ibsen was writing this play, in 1800s, women were controlled by men. However, in the play Hedda defies all these traditional by remaining in control of her actions. In the first part of the play, she is described as uninterested in her husband’s romance this implies that she was in control of her sexuality a characteristic of feminism. She also defies the tradition by playing with her father’s pistol. Weapons in these eras were considered as men's tools. Therefore, for a woman to not only have pistols, but play with them means defying the traditions. The anti feminism themes in the play are addressed in the play by depicting the traditional roles of the female gender. In the play, only men seem to have careers. This reinforces the traditional beliefs that were prominent in the era that women were only suited for the household chores.
In the play, Miss Julie by August Strindberg Julie is a girl from an aristocratic family with wealth and power. Her father is a count, and her mother is from an ordinarily background. Her mother’s influences have lead Julie to hating men even at the age of twenty five years (Strindberg, 2006). She is depicted as rich, spoilt brat whose higher social standing makes her think that she is superior to the employees in their estate. During the celebration of St John’s Eve, in her father’s absence, she freely mingles with their servant and ended up in the arms of the estate’s valet Jean. The two plan to run away when Jean kills Miss Julie’s bird, and she eventually commits suicide when her father returns.
The feminism theme in this play is addressed when Miss Julie is portrayed as the seducer. The play was set in the era when women were expected to be repressed sexually and, therefore, could not have imitated sexual relations with the male. Miss Julies also is portrayed as a brave woman who defies her social status to engage in a relationship with one of her father’s servant. This behavior was certainly out of character for women in those eras. Miss Julie is, therefore, portrayed in this play as a woman who is way ahead of her time.
This depiction of women defying the tradition helps address the feminist theory in the play. She is also portrayed in the play as wishing to dominate men (Strindberg, 2006). This is in contrast to the female gender roles that women are assigned. She is also highly secure with her sexuality a characteristic of women who have embraced their feminism Christine, on the other hand, is portrayed as a submissive woman who knows her place in the society. Although curious just like Miss Julie, to the trappings of the upper class, she is not as daring as Miss Julie. This is the opposite of Julie who perceives herself as better and superior than servants, but is daring enough to cross the class barriers.