Who is responsible for the tragedy of Hedda Gabler?

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Hedda Gabler is morally responsible for her actions. Yet at the same time, the society in which she lives doesn't allow individuals—especially women—to express themselves freely. In such an environment, Hedda cannot make independent decisions about her life without defying convention and morality. In order to be responsible for herself, she has to act irresponsibly according to society's norms and standards. If she cannot construct a life of her own outside the confines of a stultifying middle-class home, then she will destroy other people's lives instead.

For Hedda, destruction, whether it's of lives or academic manuscripts, is a creative act. She, like another of Ibsen's female characters—Nora in A Doll's House—has effectively been kept in a state of permanent childhood by a society built by men. The world outside of hearth and home is a man's world, a harsh, competitive place in which the delicate sensibilities of the female species have no place. As she is actively prohibited from participating in such a world, Hedda brings its values into the home, giving her some measure of control in her life, some sense of responsibility for what goes on around her. Yet just as such values ruin the lives of many in the world outside, so too do they come to ruin Hedda and those around her. The walls of Hedda's cozy, domestic little life have come crashing down, and for that she is wholly responsible.

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