Stella Kowalski and Hedda Gabler Term Paper
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..He smiled so scornfully when you didn't dare to go with them to the table in there (Ibsen, Act 2, pg. 60).
Later, when Lovborg thinks he has lost his manuscript due to being drunk, she offers him a gun to shoot himself with, and privately burns the manuscript.
Although on the surface, Stella Kowalski is a more honest person than Hedda Gabler, the two women share the characteristic of dishonesty when it comes to facing the reality of their situations. Stella's lust for Stanley makes her willing to overlook his brutality toward her, and she returns to his bed even after he has beaten her. Stella also lies to herself about his brutality with her sister, Blanche, saying, "I couldn't believe her story and go on living with Stanley" (Williams, Scene 11, pg. 145).
Hedda is more blatantly dishonest in her dealings with people. She is a game-player who is willing to go to incredible lengths to amuse herself at others' expense, and gone so far in her dishonesty as to marry a man who believes she loves him. Although Stella will continue to live with her dishonesty, Hedda's has gone too far and, when she realizes she may be implicated in Lovborg's death, she kills herself and her unborn child.
Both Stella and Hedda are tragic figures. Stella, although she thinks she is happy, is stuck in a depressing life with a cruel alcoholic. Hedda, lost in her own misery and entangled in guilt from her manipulation of others, finally, and selfishly, ends her own life.
Another trait the two women have in common is their utter dependence on men.
It is a sign of the times in which these plays were written that both women were automatically subjected to the necessity of being married, even if it meant putting up with untenable circumstances or a life without love. Hedda married Tesman in desperation; Stella stays with Stanley out of desperation. Stella even sacrifices her sister for Stanley, not because she does not love her, but because she needs Stanley for her survival.
Hedda sacrifices herself rather than face up to her unbearable future with a man she does not love, and a future that would force her to face the consequences of her actions.
In both plays, women are portrayed as the weaker sex in every respect. Although the male characters, such as Stanley Kowalski, Tesman and Lovborg are tormented as well, it is the women whose mental and emotional problems are the focus. Ultimately, their health and survival are entirely tied to their relationships with the men in their lives. Neither play suggests the possibility that there might be a reasonable way out of their situations or a reasonable alternative. There is no suggestion that Stanley Kowalski might need some kind of mental health intervention for his drinking or his brutal behavior. Stella does not even consider life without Stanley, and is dependent upon him emotionally, financially and mentally, even though he is abusive to her.
Likewise, although Ibsen portrays Lovborg as a weak man due to his drinking problem, the real mental case is Hedda. Hedda single-handedly brings Lovborg to his relapse into alcoholism and death, by shaming and ridiculing him, letting him know that Mrs. Elvsted has followed him out of concern that he might start drinking again, destroying his manuscript, and finally handing him the weapon that takes his life.
Although Stella chooses to stay in her abusive relationship with her oppressor husband, Hedda cannot bear to face her future under the attorney Brack's domination. Since she cannot control anything else about her situation, she takes her own life.
Ibsen does not portray her as a brave hero, but rather as a pathetic, helpless woman whose only recourse in life is to end it.
Both plays demonstrate the inferior position held by women in society for hundreds of years. Hedda and Stella today, perhaps, would be written as stronger, saner characters who demonstrate more in control over their own lives.
Ibsen, Henrick, translated and edited by Alan S. Downer, Hedda Gabler Appleton-Century Crofts,…
Sources Used in Documents:
Ibsen, Henrick, translated and edited by Alan S. Downer, Hedda Gabler Appleton-Century Crofts, Inc., New York: 1961.
Williams, Tennessee, a Street Car Named Desire New Directions Publishing, New York: 1947.
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