Role of Power in “Hedda Gabler”
The play “Hedda Gabler” is the product of a mind deeply preoccupied with the nature of power, particularly the power of one mind to influence and impose itself upon another”. Discuss.
Lust for power has destroyed mankind. Two world wars were fought and the primary reason behind them was to dominate each other and to gain power. General rule, “power is the ability to do good things for others” has been changed in recent years. In fact, power is such a thing, which is being used negatively by the humans since creation. Nowadays power is not used to do good for others but to do well for oneself. Lord Acton, British Historian, says “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men”. Thus, power, in most of the cases, is considered a bad thing as it is very less used for the welfare of humanity. Moreover, power is nothing unless one can turn it into influence. One who gains power becomes arrogant and ultimately it causes destruction of lives. A lot of effort is required to gain power but once it is gained, that prevailing person forcibly tries to impose it on the others. Such like cases have been reported widely. Henrik Ibsen has also beautifully illustrated a similar case in his play “Hedda Gabler”. It is a play, in which a woman does not want ordinary power but the power of mind to influence and impose itself upon another.
“Hedda Gabler” was written when the word “New Woman” was emerged. The concept of people about the women was changed and women were not bound to remain in fourwalls of the houses just to do things for their husbands and for their children. “New Woman” unlike “Old Woman” wants self domination, liberation and to spend life as per her own desires not per the requirements of the society. Hedda Gabler, the protagonist of the play, also wanted liberation but she was struck between “New Woman” and “Old Woman”. She wanted to do a lot of things but had fear in her mind, which was once in “Old Woman”. Although, she came from a noble house, where she was free to go and do whatever she wanted yet after marriage the situation became worst for her. Her marriage was end of her freedom. Henrik Ibsen did not create the character of Hedda Gabler as a “New Woman” but she is resistance against the term “New Woman”. Hedda fears from scandals. When Loevborg asks her “Why did you not shoot me then?”. She replies “Because I have such a dread of scandal”. She wants freedom but fears from societal-humiliation. Hedda’s motive to influence and impose her mind’s power upon another” is in fact her necessity. She cannot change Tesman’s mind nor can she change the psyche of public at large. Thus, the only option she has, is to live life through others. She believes that power to determine how and when one dies is the ultimate freedom. She gives one of her father’s pistols to Loevborg and seduces him for a “beautiful death” but when loevborg dies not as per her prescribed way, she realizes that the beautiful death is still fantasy.
Hedda is under the pressure of society; a society, which she does not like. She can’t change it nor can she give up on her desires. She is compelled to take wrong steps because it is the need of hour. Her life is destroyed because of her marriage as it is not based on love. Thus, to impose her mind’s power upon others is her only choice. She does it so that she can change her husband, the society and also Miss Tesman so as to live a free live while following her wishes. She does it because without doing so, she is unable to spend life with freedom.
The title of the play is ironical. The play starts when the marriage between Hedda and Tesman has been solemnized, therefore, the title of the play must be “Hedda Tesman” instead of “Hedda Gabler”. Henrik Ibsen, deliberately titled the play as “Hedda Gabler”. The reason behind is that Hedda is not Hedda Tesman even after marriage. She is still Hedda Gabler. She wants qualities of her father not of her husband. Her father, as revealed from the play, was a general. She wants the power of domination and to impose her thinking on others. Henrik Ibsen has the quality of putting things in juxtaposition. He put Tesman with Loevborg and at the same time with General Gabler. According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of “Electra Complex” a woman wants such like qualities in her husband, which are in her father. Hedda expects qualities of her father in Tesman but when she could not find them in Tesman, she tries to impose those qualities on him. Although she remained fail in doing so yet it is evident that she tried. She further attempts to impose the qualities of her father on Loevborg but again failed to do so. It is not because she wants but because she is in compulsion. She wants her unmarried life back, in which she was free to decide what to do and what not to do. She is prejudiced from Miss Tesman and also wants to change her. She wants to convert a traditional woman into a new emerging woman of the society.
Hedda is neither a traditional nor is a new woman but the combination of both. She wants freedom but fears from society. She wants liberation but is bound even by her own family. Hedda is Hedda Gabler and like General Gabler wants liberty. She cannot spend life with restrictions because it is not her routine. She does not only want authority but also forcibly wants to impose her own thoughts on others. She wants beautiful death but she wants it through Loevborg, She chooses beautiful death for him and hands over her father’s pistol to him. Furthermore, she wants to push her husband into politics to attain and maintain power. She cannot control the whole society, therefore, imposes power on every character, whom she meets. In short, in a male dominated society, she is a masculine figure, who wants control on everyone.