A Beautiful and Inconvenient Reality

1380 Words6 Pages
Henrik Ibsen was a nineteenth century playwright who pioneered realism in drama. He wrote during a time in which very specific gender roles dominated life, especially for women, who found themselves bound to their home and their husbands, lacking a voice of their own. The influence of that society is evident in Ibsen’s works, many of which sought to analyze and critique different aspects of it. Ibsen did not hold back with regard to challenging even the most widely accepted societal norms; this led to many of his plays becoming extremely controversial. Chief among those plays are A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler. However, Ibsen himself said, “A Doll’s House is a social problem play, while Hedda Gabler is merely a problem play.” Though these plays and their protagonists are quite similar, at heart they are entirely different. One centers on societal norms, while the other centers on the actions of its protagonist. The social climate in the late nineteenth century was still strongly governed by Victorian values, which is clearly portrayed in both plays. One example of this is the great distaste most felt toward expressions of sexuality. People, especially women, were supposed to be almost entirely covered up when outside their bedroom. It also wasn’t acceptable to bring up anything remotely sexual in conversation, or to write about it. Whenever anything of that nature would be brought up, it had to be in the form of subtle euphemisms; a clear example of this in Hedda Gabler is the many references to Hedda having “filled out on the journey” (pg. 162) during her honeymoon with George, to refer to her suspected pregnancy. The most prevalent aspect of societal constraints at the time, however, is the weight of gender role... ... middle of paper ... ...he faces, and the devious way in which she deals with it. Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House are two plays strongly connected by similar protagonists. Both also took place in what was then modern society, amidst constraining Victorian values; values such as the suppression of sexuality and the relegating of the sexes to traditional roles. The difference is that one protagonist, Nora Helmer, is merely a vehicle for providing a candid critique of society. This, when taken with the realistic nature of the play, is what makes the play so powerful, and what made it tough for nineteenth century audiences to accept. The other, Hedda Tesman, is herself the subject of the play she appears in; the society she lives in merely adds to the effect of realism to draw audiences into the play, and acts as a complement to her, emphasizing the features that make her so unique.
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