At first glance, Tess D’Urberville and Hedda Gabler are polar opposites. Tess D’Urberville epitomizes picturesque feminine charm. On the other hand, Hedda Gabler asserts masculine prerogatives. Moreover, Tess is a rural country girl whose tragedy is predetermined by wretched circumstances. Conversely, the aristocratic Hedda has complete free will yet self-destructs through reckless actions.
Despite the female protagonists’ dissimilitude, their fates are similarly tragic with Tess’ death on the gallows and Hedda’s suicide. Therefore, it is worth inspecting the pervasive societal forces culminating in tragedies of these two dissimilar characters. Both works were set against the literary backdrop of 1980’s Victorian era, whose social mores leached beyond the borders of England into Ibsen's Norway. Both protagonists contravene the Victorian codes of conduct thereby generating a maelstrom of moralistic criticism on the “fallen” Tess and the “unwomanly” Hedda. An examination of the aforementioned labels allows us to unpack the discourse surrounding the ideal Victorian woman.
The “fallen woman”, epitomized by Tess, is an archetypal classification of a tainted woman. Victorian moralists (Collini) associated “fallen women” with a “loss of sexual purity”, hence any women who had sex outside of marriage…show more content… To him, the “little upward lift in the middle of her top red lip” is “distracting, infatuating, maddening”, highlighting that even Angel who seemingly personifies progressiveness is an enforcer of the “male gaze” — Victorian men with a wide spectrum of personalities all fall prey to the “male gaze”. Moreover, the magnified contour of Tess’ lips coupled with erotic descriptions of her “bouncing handsome womanliness” unveil an unhealthy voyeuristic focus on female physicality, signalling the physical essentialism of femininity which spawned the “male