A revolutions most imperative ingredient is self-liberation, the essence of freedom. The ability to free one's self from the constraints of society through sacrifice is the ultimate and perhaps the only control one has over their life. The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt and "Hedda Gabler" by Henrick Ibsen are plays that vividly display finally balanced similarities in regards to the theme of self-liberation. In both text this theme enriches the narrative and vividly displays each characters revolution within the city and the walls of their own home in order to reach self-liberation. Both authors have constructed the path of each character towards self-liberation as a delicate art form. The element, the tool, and the cause are layers that both Hedda Gabler, and Claire must "paint" over in attain self liberation. Ibsen and Durrenmatt theme of self liberation are constructed through the element, the tool, and the cause in each play.
Ibsen's play "Hedda Gabler" and Durrenmatt's play The Visit facilitate the theme of self liberation through a single element in the play, which is a factor in the characters life that allows them to reach self liberation. Hedda Gabler and Claire Zachanassian can only reach self liberation through the inevitability and finality of death. In "Hedda Gabler" Hedda structures her entire character around the thought of dying beautifully. "No I don't believe in vine leaves anymore. But beautifully, all the same. For this once -!"(Act III 288). This quotation emphasizes on Hedda's outlook and view on death. Her character believes that the power which determines when and how someone dies is the ultimate freedom and perhaps the only real control one has in their life. This factor is illustraed as her character says "For this onceâ€¦" (288). Therefore Hedda yearns for the desire of making it beautiful because nothing else is in her hands. The ultimate act that allows her to attain self liberation is by demonstrating how one must die in order for it to qualify as "beautiful" and epic. Similarly in Durrenmatt's play The Visit Ill's death is used as an element which allows Claire to reach self liberation. Over time Claire's love for Ill transforms into an evil and hideous obsession, and the only way Claire could attain self liberation is after his death. "Life went on, and I have forgotten nothing, Illâ€¦And now we're old, the pair of us. You decrepit, and me cut to bits by the surgeons' knivesâ€¦now I want accounts between us settled. You chose you life but you forced me into mineâ€¦" (39). Claire Zachanassian is a women who lusted after the death of Ill for forty-five years, his death allows Claire to rest in peace and finally move on from this demoralizing chapter of her life. Hedda and Claire consider that they can gain what they long for through death, and perhaps the control over death is the way of achieving self liberation. Both characters are fully aware that the only way they can reach their self liberation is through sacrifices that have to be made in their lives. Thus Ibsen's and Durrenmatt's element is death.
Although death is the element used for each play to attain self liberation, manipulation is central tool adopted by both Hedda and Claire. Ibsen and Durrenmatt present each lead female character with a strength that allows them to achieve their self liberation. In "Hedda Gabler" and The Visit, the tool is the trait and method used by each character throughout the play to influence not only other characters but to further manipulate the final outcome of everything to their liking. Through the manipulative trait of Hedda Habler and Claire Zachanassian the mental relief of self liberation is illustrated. "Hedda Gabler" and The Visit present female characters who have sculpted their entire attitude and lifestyle in hopes of achieving self liberation. In "Hedda Gabler" Hedda's manipulative trait is portrayed through her constant need for power. Hedda's aptitude of being able to manipulate others is granted through her exotic exterior features. Her feminine charm gave her the ability to manipulate men however, always making the men come second to her. Hedda is defined by her looks. In this society, beauty seems to be her only value. A simple glance or smile persuades both female and male character to tell her the information she wants to hear, or manipulate the outcomes of any situation to her liking. This is seen in the quotation "Well then, let's try now to come closer again. Now listen. At school we were quite good friends, and we called each other by our first names" (237). Manipulation gives her character power, which in turn allows her to reach self liberation. Ibsen best illustrates this concept to the audience through Hedda' relationship with Eilert Lovborg in the quotation "Yes, Hedda, -and the confessions I used to make -telling you things about myself that no one else knew of then. About the way I'd go out, the drinking, the madness that went on day and night, for days at a time. Ah, what power was it in you, Hedda that made me tell you such things?" (265). During her past relationship with Eilert Lovborg Hedda attained a strong grip over him as the quotation suggests in the present she manipulates Eilert Lovborg to the point where she convinces him to "die beautifully" in order for her to reach self liberation. Ibsen illustrates Hedda's powerful tool of manipulation through this. Hedda exhibits a manipulative trait so influential that her own self-destruction leads almost to the destruction of other character's lives. Similarly in The Visit manipulation is Claire Zachanassian tool in order to reach self liberation through Ill's death. Claire's approach in doing this was with her money and status in the town of Gullen. Durrenmatt presents a strong female character who uses her tool of manipulation to the point where she destructs the social elites in society and destroys the social morality in the town Guellen. A quotation that best illustrates this is when the Mayer says "Madam Zachanassian: you forget, this is Europe. You forget we are not savagesâ€¦I reject your offer;â€¦in the name of humanity. We would rather have poverty than blood on our hands"(39). However this statement is than contradicted by act III as the Mayor says "But isn't it your duty, as a man of honor, to draw your own conclusions and make an end of your life? (80). These two quotations illustrate the power of Claire's manipulation through money. Claire seeks for justice for forty-five years, and while every aspect of her body and mind became artificial during that time period the word justice remained in her soul until the thought was satisfied. Her wealth and power allowed her to manipulate the lives of others which in turn allowed her to reach self liberation through Ill's death. Ibsen and Durrenmatt portray a similar strength in the tool of manipulation in both plays. The firm control Hedda and Claire attain over the lives of others allows both character to reach their self liberation despite all the destruction along the way. Hedda manipulates Eilert towards his death, while Claire manipulates the town to direct Ill towards his.
Henrick Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" and Freidrich Durrenmatt's The Visit not only use factors in the play that allow the lead female character to reach self liberation, but they also include a factor in their environment that restricts them from reaching self liberation, the cause. Henrick Ibsen and Freidrich Durrenmatt use the cause to give depth to the dénouement of each play. In both plays feminism is the central constraint which restraints Hedda Gabler in "Hedda Gabler" and Claire Zachanassian in The Visit. The constraint in society during the time frame of both stories restricts the characters from achieving their self liberation through an easier route. For instance in the play "Hedda Gabler" Hedda would have been able to reach her self liberation of having control over the lives of other if the women in her era were able to pursue a career. Hence, Hedda's only chance at experiencing power is through using the people around her in some way to shape her desires and experiences, even if it destroys their lives. Society does not allow Hedda to simply free herself. This is best seen as Hedda says
"HEDDA. Yes, there is. For once in my life, I want to have power over a human being.
MRS.ELVSTED. But don't you have that?
HEDDA. I don't have it, I've never had it."(272)
Women in this era suffocate under the laws and rules of society, by the end of the play Hedda does reach self liberation, however not through the control over the lives and death of others, but her own. The only real element that Hedda can ever have power over is herself. This concept of feminism as a cause that restricts the characters from reaching self liberation in also emphasized upon in Durrenmatt's play The Visit. Claire was pregnant with Ill's child when they were young, and by presenting false witnesses at the paternity suit Claire was shunned from the city and forced into a life that she did not choose for herself. As women in that era her reputation was destroyed amongst the town. Claire could have easily reached self liberation ages ago if women were able to obtain as much power as any man. Therefore to obtain justice and self liberate through Ill's death Claire first needed to become more powerful the social elites in the town of Gullen. The quotation that illustrates this is when Claire says " It was winter, long ago, when I left this little townâ€¦ pregnant with only a short while to go, and the townsfolk sniggering at meâ€¦but as I watched the silhouette of Petersens' Barn sinking awayâ€¦I swore a vow to myself, I would come back again, one day. I've come back now. Now it's me imposing the conditions. Me driving the bargain" (66). At that time Claire had absolutely no power over the decisions that were being made in her life, not over the judge, the town people, or Ill. After forty-five years the power is finally obtained. Ibsen and Durrenmatt both place a great emphasis on the cause that restricted Hedda Gabler and Claire Zachanassian from reaching self liberation through a more civil way, feminism. The leading female characters had to obtain a specific status through a specific method in order to free themselves from the constraints of society and from within. The concept of both women suffering at one point in their life because women had no power is immensely displayed.
Henrick Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" and Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Visit present two different plays about the struggle of a woman within the walls of society both with lead female characters striving for self liberation. In conclusion both author use the element, tool, and the cause to direct each character towards self liberation and to best illustrate the concept of self liberation. "Hedda Gabler" and The Visit present a play to the audience where a massive revolution takes place in the mind of each character. Both characters only self liberating thought is death, yet the only reason Hedda Gabler and Claire Zachanassian manipulate the lives of others in order to reach self liberation is because they cannot manipulate their own without power. These women did not possess enough power on their own, to better the outcomes for themselves. Hedda relied on her beauty, while Claire relied on her money. Self liberation can only be achieved through death because nothing in Hedda Gabler's life or Claire Zachanassian life can measure up to a certain standard, regardless of practicalities like professional success or failure.Â