Hedda Gabler

Critical interpretation

Joseph Wood Krutch makes a connection between Hedda Gabler and Freud, whose first work on psychoanalysis was published almost a decade later. In Krutch's analysis, Gabler is one of the first fully developed neurotic female protagonists of literature.[4] By that, Krutch means that Hedda is neither logical nor insane in the old sense of being random and unaccountable. Her aims and her motives have a secret personal logic of their own. She gets what she wants, but what she wants is not anything that normal people usually admit, publicly at least, to be desirable. One of the significant things that such a character implies is the premise that there is a secret, sometimes unconscious, world of aims and methods — one might almost say a secret system of values — that is often much more important than the rational one.

It is worth noting that Ibsen was interested in the then-embryonic science of mental illness and had a poor understanding by present standards. His Ghosts is another example of this. Examples of the troubled 19th century female might include oppressed, but normal, wilful characters; women reacting to abuse, sexual or otherwise (as Freud chose to deny); as well as those with organic brain disease. Ibsen innocently picks a range of examples and is prepared to mix them into one character. Bernard Paris interprets Gabler's actions as stemming from her "need for freedom [which is] as compensatory as her craving for power... her desire to shape a man's destiny."[5]


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