Sample Literature Review Paper on Henrik Ibsen Hedda Gabbler Analysis on Women

Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" is a play that revolves around the life of a nineteenth-
century woman, Hedda Gabler, who struggles to fit into the rigid social roles and behaviors
expected of women in her society. Women were mostly expected to follow strict behavioral
norms, avoid scandal, and remain in the domestic space. This means they were to follow the
patriarchal society's expectation of getting married to one man and subsequently give birth to
children and take care of the home. Further, women were considered intellectually inferior to
men, with men taking active roles in academics, warfare, and leadership in society. Such strict
social norms exerted significant pressure on women with those who deviated considered ill-
mannered and shunned by society. In Hedda Gabbler, social pressures on women resulted in
physiological impacts given the strict social structures, gender roles, and society's patriarchal
The strict social structures in Hedda Gabbler's society force her into undesired marriage
and loveless marriage. The society expects women to get married at a certain age beyond which
they become undesired and ridiculed. As Hedda tells Judge Brack, she "had positively danced
myself tired, my dear Judge. My day was done…" (Gosse and Archer 67). In this, she implies
that she would have soon had no suitor to ask for her hand in marriage. Additionally, she accepts
to get married following her father's death, and because Tesman's proposal was more than that of
other suitors (68). Throughout the book, women are considered secondary to who direct their

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actions. For instance, Hedda firstly relies on her father, the General. Upon his death, she then has
to get married and rely on Tesman. Essentially, women had limited prospects of freedom or
security in the absence of a male figure. This means that women would have to depend on men;
however much they craved their independence. Therefore, Hedda is forced into a loveless
marriage primarily because society has placed hurdles on her independence and has an idealized
womanhood version.
Women in Hedda's society were expected to perform tasks such as taking care of their
families, giving birth, and taking care of men's needs. Despite Hedda's intellectual and powerful
personality, she is forced to stick to these gender roles. As she confesses to Mrs. Elvsted as to
why she manipulates Lovborg into taking alcohol, "I want for once in my life to have power to
mould a human destiny" (115). This desire is responsible for Hedda's manipulative and
controlling personality. However, despite such desires for power and influence, she maintains
her womanly roles dictated by her times' culture. This role required them to be mothers and
remain at home while the men provided economic support and protection (Hossein 3). In the end,
she is impacted negatively by such gender roles as she is conflicted between expressing her
independence and sticking to societal expectations.
Hedda's society's patriarchal nature requires her to behave and live in a way that conflicts
with her personality. Her society's patriarchy requires her to display behavior the society
considers feminine such as obedience, gentleness, and meekness. On the contrary, Hedda is
strong and assertive. For instance, she handles pistols, something which is a preserve of men.
When she asks her husband for "my pistols," the husband is confused, and she has to say
"General Gabler's pistols" (58). This highlights the patriarchy of the time; women were not
expected to handle such things as these were men's preserve. However, "Hedda is not interested

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in ordinary concepts with women like being a mother and having children. Her behavior is
considered manly, given her general strength and intellect during interactions. However, the
patriarchy in society cannot allow Hedda to act and live as she wants, contributing to significant
conflicts in her life.
The social pressures placed on women contribute to significant physiological effects
given the social structure, gender roles, and society's patriarchal nature. This is exemplified by
Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler," which highlights the internal conflicts Hedda has to go through as she
juggles marriage, love, and relationships with other characters. In the end, the physiological
impacts such as stress lead to her death as she cannot reconcile her internal desires with social

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Works Cited

Gosse, Edmund, and William Archer, translators.