Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler is a story of great tragedy, with a web of controversies and a tangle of secrets. In such a beautiful irony, it portrayed that the small town wherein the heroine resides with her husband, is inflicted with gruesome gossip and twisted tales of conflicted interests.
Hedda Gabler, a born aristocrat who marries to a class beneath her, has to do with a lifestyle far inferior than what she is used to. The writer used a conversational tone to portray Hedda’s manipulative nature as she controls those that surrounds her.
The story revolves around this young wife, as she plays with people’s feelings and affairs, and meddle with things so much so that they work out to her advantage.
In this tragedy, it pays to ask the question: what provoked Hedda to marry Tesman?
II – Marriage of Different Lifestyles
I am interested with Ibsen’s idea of Hedda Gabler being an aristocrat who had to get used to a different lifestyle.
There were many analysis offered for the play Hedda Gabler, yet only a handful of them displayed this very obvious fact. The fact that Hedda is manipulative and is using her husband, Jürgen Tesman, is evident from the first scene of the play, when Tesman commented how fat Hedda is getting, when in fact his wife is pregnant and he has no idea.
Even Tesman’s aunt, Aunt Julle, picked up upon this very noticeable change in Hedda, yet Hedda dismissed her with curt replies. SparkNotes (2009) even commented the tyranny of Hedda over Tesman’s household, wherein Berte, the maid, is scared of not being able to please her, and Aunt Julle is tormented by her.
Tesman lived to do his wife’s every bidding. In fact, Tesman did everything he can to make sure that they afford the lavish house they are living in, just because Hedda happened to mention that she would want to live in that particular house. When further analysis from SparkNotes (2009) revealed that Hedda only said she wanted that house because she cannot think of anything else to say. To Hedda the house is a joke, a sign of Tesman’s unwavering devotion and faithfulness, to Tesman, the house is a fulfillment of his wife’s wish.
Along the play, Tesman followed his wife’s every bidding. There was in instance wherein Hedda was rude to Aunt Julle and Tesman reprimanded her afterwards. Still, basically Tesman’s role in the play was to follow Hedda’s wishes. When Hedda burned the novel of Ejlert Lövborg, Tesman was delighted. He actually thought that Hedda did it because she wanted to help him advance in his academic profession, when in fact Hedda burned the novel because she didn’t want to be reminded of the romance between Ejlert and her.
This is interesting to notice, seeing as in other cultures, it is actually discouraged that people from different social standings to marry. With Hedda and Tesman, it is plain that she had to adjust to a different lifestyle, and because of this, she was bored, and living with Tesman does not excite her, as she confides to Judge Brack.
This brings me back to my original thesis: what provoked Hedda to marry Tasman, seeing that he is a man of lower class, and he cannot afford her lavish lifestyle? We could only grope Ibsen’s wisdom. Perhaps it is because through Tasman, Hedda can forget about her past relationship with Ejlert, or perhaps, through Tasman, Hedda can still indulge herself a playmate whom she can take advantage of. We can never be certain, until Ibsen partakes the real reason for the two’s matrimony.
III – Secrets Revealed
Throughout the play, there were numerous secrets disclosed. SparkNotes (2009) mentions the secrets, such as Hedda taking advantage of all the men in the play, Hedda’s affair with Ejlert, which scarred the latter for life, the relationship between Mrs. Elvsted and Ejlert, among many others. The author cleverly reveals each secret little by little, dragging the audience to the edge of their feet before giving the final picture. Throughout the play, the audience is captivated by how many more secrets will be revealed, and how will Hedda manipulate people to tell her what she wants to hear.
I love the irony discussed with the last scene, wherein Aunt Julle returned to the household that is now filled with mourning, what with Aunt Rina’s passing and the horrible incident with Ejlert. Aunt Julle was very welcoming and still hints at Hedda for children, and was oblivious to the fact that so many changes happened within the home, and to pretend that nothing happened is otherwise insane. Yet the author was able to get away with such a tricky symbolism, as the audience is sure to applaud the wit and charisma Aunt Julle brings into the last scene.
Also worth mentioning is the way Tasman was horrorstruck when he found out that his wife had burned Ejlert’s novel. However when he thought she was doing it out of love so that he will be able to secure the teaching post he so much wanted, he would have gladly embraced Hedda. How could someone be blinded so much by a manipulative woman? I’ve known that some people say that love is blind, but in Tesman’s case, the cliché is very much overrated, seeing as she was fooling him in his own home. How can a man not see that his wife is pregnant, and yet would opt to commend on her new curves and new body? Does he not see the baby that is growing in Hedda’s belly?
With this, perhaps the pregnancy is the reason why Hedda is manipulative and very sarcastic. Women who are pregnant are prone to mood swings and irrational thinking, yet what would contribute to Hedda’s dark nature? Is she really being sarcastic and arrogant because of her proud upbringing, or is she acting this way because she is pregnant and she has no feelings for the child in her womb and with the baby’s father?
Overall the play is very satisfactory. Even in the ending wherein Hedda committed suicide, the audience could rest their breaths, knowing that Tasman is in the arms of a capable woman, Mrs. Elvsted. SparkNotes (2009) describes Mrs. Elvsted as a competent woman who bounces off from men to men, according to her needs.
She met Mr. Elvsted by working for him, and afterwards they were married. With Ejlert, the Elvsteds hired him to be a tutor for their children, and Mrs. Elvsted turned out to be Ejlert’s assistant in his research and writing. After Hedda burned the novel, Mrs. Elvsted mentioned that she knew some parts of Ejlert’s manuscript because she helped him research for it. She and Tasman immediately tried to reconstruct the manuscript that Ejlert wrote. Now that Hedda is out of the picture, and the original author of the manuscript is also gone, then Mrs. Elvsted is free to make her move in regards to Tasman, and the two of them can prove to the audience that in their dreary old town, it is still possible for love to exist.