Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children

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Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children

Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children present two strongly defined female heroines whose actions not only adversely affect the other characters’ lives but also suggest a fundamental problem with their societies. Both playwrights establish the macroscopic view of society’s ills in the microscopic, individual characters of Hedda and Mother Courage. Both characters have an indomitable magnetism that, on the one hand, allows them to control others but, on the other, causes them to make desperate choices that reflect a repressive society.

Ibsen creates in Hedda Gabler a dominating, fiercely controlling female
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Though Ibsen depicts Hedda as a cold, unnatural creature who cannot love her husband, her child, or even her lover Lovborg, she nevertheless remains a victim in life and, by her suicide, in death. Society holds no place for Hedda other than as a wife or mother, and the implication remains throughout the play that Hedda, as an intelligent individual, has wasted her intelligence and abilities on her domestic role. Hedda channels her creative energy into a fruitless, harmful end, and the coldness of her character matches the idea that anyone opposing the social roles set forth for them must exist as an unnatural, unfeeling creature. If her life has given her a cage, then her death, which seems to free Hedda, in actuality only gives yet another destructive manifestation of her energies. Ibsen implies, by her death, that the only way Hedda finds freedom from an oppressive system lies in the internalization of her destructive actions, or her suicide.

Though Hedda, in view of this restrictive society, potentially evokes our sympathetic emotions, she nevertheless makes choices Ibsen carefully delineates in the play that lead to her ultimate destruction. Perhaps the greatest tragedy underlying both Hedda’s character and the play as a whole remains with Hedda herself, for she ultimately chooses to take what society offers her--Tesman and the life of a social wife. When offered

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