Shen Te and Hedda Gabler
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The role of a woman in society is one of the main themes in the plays of Brecht and Ibsen. It should be noted that while the characters of Hedda Gabler and The Good Woman of Setzuan have different personalities and belong to different layers in society, the theme of limitations and dependence of women is what unites the two plays.
In The Good Woman of Setzuan Brecht explores the expectations that society imposes upon a person, a woman in particular. The main character, Shen Te is a prostitute, which means that she is an outcast and condemned by her community. Yet, she wants to deserve approval from her fellow citizens by following certain rules of etiquette to appear good and respectable. However, despite the fact that the “goodness” of most other people is superficial, it appears to be impossible for her to win the status of a decent woman. However, she is surprised to find out that when she invents her male cousin as a false personality of hers, it appears much easier for her to make “a good person” in the community. Hence, the gender stereotypes and social clichés are revealed by the author when dealing with the character of Shen Te.
In its turn, Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler deals with the kind of femininity that is restricted by certain rules and prescriptions. However, these restrictions only urge the main character to fulfill her thirst for power. In a cunning way, she manages to manipulate people, especially men. The author believes that such perverted form of femininity appears as a result of impossibility for women to realize their true potential in a natural way. As a result, Hedda competes with men for power and destructive strategies are revealed.
Thus, there are different aspects about femininity, which are raised in the two plays. Yet, both characters understand that they have to seek for non-traditional ways of survival in the male world in order to be safe and powerful.