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Ninetieth-century aristocracy

Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” and Auguste Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” are two plays which reflect a certain discontent with or criticism of the era in which they are set. While Ibsen’s tale about a woman with masculine ideals trapped in a role she does not wish to play obliquely criticizes the cultural milieu of ninetieth-century aristocracy, Strindberg’s play takes a more direct approach as it offers a commentary on the differentiation and ultimate sameness of the different social classes of this era.

In Hedda Gabler, Ibsen reflects a distaste for aristocratic culture and its repressive nature; for him it stifles individual expression, freedom and creativity as it rewards mediocrity and sameness. The plot revolves around a couple who have just returned from a six-month long honeymoon excursion to a house which has been purchased upon the groom’s financial prospects. The bride, Hedda, a woman from an aristocratic background perceiving herself to be in personal decline, has married a man she neither loves nor wants but wishes to manipulate for her own ends.

Throughout the play Hedda is portrayed as a woman with masculine tendencies struggling for freedom from the bondage of womanhood with its attendant restrictions. Hedda’s mannerisms and indeed her very language suggest a woman out of step with her role in society; she is fiercely competitive, militaristic, and impatient with societies norms and conventions. HEDDA GABLER (HENRIK IBSEN) AND MISS JULIE (AUGUSTE STRINDBERG) , A CRITICISM OF NINETEENTH CENTURY ARISTOCRACY

As a general’s daughter, one is given the impression that in a different society, culture or world which didn’t suppress individual’s natures on the basis of sex roles and stereotypes, Hedda would have perhaps been a soldier like her aristocratic father. We are led through a maze of metaphors in which Hedda expresses herself, as well as has other people describe her, in clearly unfeminine, militaristic ways. Her new husband describes her as handsome rather than pretty.

She speaks often about killing and death, is obsessed with pistols, and refers to friends as “comrades”. It is also clear that Hedda rejects any concept of herself in the feminine role of wife or mother; indeed, any attempts to refer to her in this role are met with scorn and firmly rejected by her. Thus, when her husband remarks about her having “filled out on the journey (the honeymoon),” suggesting possible pregnancy, she angrily retorts, “oh, do be quiet. ” In the same way, she rejects peoples’ attempts to trivialize her in traditionally female ways.

Thus, when, upon speaking to Judge Brack, George says, “But what do you think of Hedda, doesn’t she look flourishing (again suggesting a possible pregnancy) she retorts, ‘oh, do leave me alone. ” Ibsen portrays Hedda as a woman circumscribed by the limitations that society, her own peculiar personality, and the lapse of time have placed upon her. Quite unwillingly, and through a natural progression of unwanted events, she has been cast into a role she neither desired nor planned for. Later in the play she tells Judge Brack of how she “made use of HEDDA GABLER (HENRIK IBSEN) AND MISS JULIE (AUGUSTE STRINDBERG), A CRITICISM OF NINETEENTH CENTURY ARISTOCRACY.

Tesman to see me home from evening parties last summer” and how as Tesman “poor fellow, was writhing in the agony of having to find conversation,” she initiated the discussion which led to their eventually courtship and subsequent marriage. Again, she is implying that she would not voluntarily have assumed such an awkward position, but rather it was the demands placed upon her by society, with its restrictive norms and conventions bearing upon a lady’s proper “place” in it, (i. e. the need for escort and protection) that had cast her into such an unfortunate predicament in the first place.

In addition to a look as to how society’s conventions have adversely affected the heroin of the story, Ibsen treats us to a study of how general aspects of aristocratic culture impact negatively on the society as a whole. Through various references to the characters’ behavior, he portrays a society that stifles freedom and expressiveness, as well as any outward display of affection.

Nowhere in the story is this more evident than in George Tessman’s impartial greeting of his aunt Julia upon the couple’s return from their six-month wedding trip. Aunt Julia is portrayed as a woman who has raised Tesman as her own child after his parents’ death. In spite of this perceived closeness though, George approaches his aunt after their long separation to greet her with a warm handshake! Sexual repression seems also to be the norm in aristocratic culture. Thus, George’s aunt, Miss Tessman, asks Hedda “(with some embarrassment) ‘has the bride slept well in her new.

HEDDA GABLER (HENRIK IBSEN) AND MISS JULIE (AUGUSTE STRINDBERG), A CRITICISM OF NINETEENTH CENTURY ARISTOCRACY home? ’” Clearly Ibsen is making reference to the exaggerated modesty of this era and culture. Here it would seem that Aunt Tessman expresses embarrassment by making reference to anything relating to love, marriage, family, sex, relationship, etc. In short, any expression of humanity and its manifestations seems to embarrass and inhibit people in this culture.

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