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Hedda Gabler and Mrs. Alving in Search for Freedom

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Introduction

Hedda Gabler and Mrs. Alving in Search for Freedom Henrik Ibsen's works are dealing with the well kept secrets and dogmas in society. His plays strip away the defending layers of the established ethical and moral virtues of social life and therefore create a great commotion and distress among the general public. Ibsen's radical exposure of highly tabooed themes such as sexually transmitted diseases, euthanasia, incest, dysfunctional marriages, and the "angel of the house" role of women causes the painful response of the spectators facing the brightness of the truth. Prof. Bjorn Hemmer in his "The Dramatist Henrik Ibsen" laconically summarizes the magnitude of Ibsen's impact on modern theatre and social conventions: "However, drama was the focus of his real lyrical spirit. For a period of many hard years, he faced bitter opposition. But he finally triumphed over the conservatism and aesthetic prejudices of the contemporary critics and audiences. More than anyone, he gave theatrical art a new vitality by bringing into European bourgeois drama an ethical gravity, a psychological depth, and a social significance which the theatre had lacked since the days of Shakespeare. In this manner, Ibsen strongly contributed to giving European drama a vitality and artistic quality comparable to the ancient Greek tragedies."1 "Hedda Gabler" and "Ghosts" are the two plays this essay will focus on and especially on the importance for the two protagonists-Hedda Gabler and Mrs. ...read more.

Middle

The inability directly to contradict society with a lifestyle that would have made her truly happy, hypothetically, causes Hedda to idealize Lovborg, who is in reality not the semi-god with "vine leafs in his hair" who lives as freely and carelessly as she wants herself to be. Hedda perceives Lovborg as God Dionysius and as the only one capable of being really liberated and fulfilled, and therefore she is so utterly devastated by the truth of his supposed beautiful suicide. The deconstructing of the sweeping and liberating Dionysian power is the death blow for the eternally respectable Apollonian antipode- Hedda Gabler: "What is it, this-this curse- that everything I touch turns ridiculous and vile?"3 Hedda realizes that once Lovborg is dead she could never ever be able even to attempt through anyone else's life to seek her freedom, she is a living dead, and she has lost this final battle with the world as well. Hedda's pistol is found in Lovborg's pocket and Judge Brack is blackmailing her to reveal the true owner of the pistol unless she becomes his lover, Hedda's response is almost hysterical:"All the same, I'm in your power. Tied to your will and desire. Not free. Not free, then! (Rises angrily). No-I can't bear the thought of it. Never!"4 Hedda from once the hunter of untamable Lovborg became a prey to the dull and banal Tesman and now to the slimy Judge Brack. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mrs. Alving attributes divine qualities to her all too human and mortal son, who pays the price for his "honourable" father's livsglaede or joy of life the same Mrs. Alving could never fully understand and experience due to her enormous feeling of duty and need to conform. Mrs. Alving is conscious of her loss of freedom and incapability to face the truth: "I should think there must be ghosts all over the country- as countless as grains of sand. And we are, all of us, so pitifully afraid of the light."9 Osvald is not afraid of the light he paints light and the joy of living, he is free and Mrs. Alving tries through his enlightenment to experience hers, but she is unsuccessful. In the final scene Mrs. Alving fails once more to save her son from the devastating world of Captain Alving, who has bequeathed his son nothing but syphilis. Mrs. Alving cannot give Osvald the sun- she never breaks free from the social conventions, she never sets herself free and hence she is never able to attain the sun, the metaphor for freedom. Mrs. Alving's decision to take her son's life or to spare him is equivocally left to the spectator to ponder upon. The tragedy and drama of the heroine is reinforced with the stage directions:"The sun rises; the glaciers and peaks in the distance glow in the morning light"10 not only the society and the people are against her, now Ibsen brings in the nature itself as the final element to crush the dutiful Mrs. Alving and her failing to face the light. ...read more.

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