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Feminism and and the Works of Ibsen

            Women have been empowered through feminist drama for decades. Theatrical works intended to convey a feminist message have inspired women to rise above oppression enforced by unfair societal gender norms. However, many readers argue over the feminist label as it applies to some playwrights and their works. This is exactly the case for nineteenth century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. A number of his plays feature strong women protagonists who reject female stereotypes and standards. Many critics are hesitant or entirely against associating these plays with feminism and what it stands for. Though a majority of critics claim that Ibsen's works do not fall into this genre, the dramatic structure and protagonists of A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler prove that these works are feminist in nature. Regardless of whether or not Ibsen considered himself or his plays to be feminist, the response from his audiences demonstrates his overwhelming influence in female empowerment.
             An inarguably feminist icon born of Ibsen's dramatic literature is Hedda Gabler. She is portrayed as enduring constant conflict between her desires and the desires of her patriarchal world. First, Hedda is "dominated by her father in her early life - his lasting presence is symbolized by the great portrait which hangs in the living room" (Walkington 64). The powerful influence of her father leads her to sacrifice true, passionate love to settle for a practical and reasonable marriage with George Tesman. George "as a representative of male bourgeois culture - expects his wife to remain without a vocation other than socializing and child rearing, a frightening possibility to Hedda" (Walkington 64). Her husband does not permit her any opportunity to pursue any of her passions, therefore treating her unequally and as though she is less than human. This kind of inequality is the foundation of the feminist movement.

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