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This can be seen in the initial discussion between Aunt Julia and Tesman. Aunt Julia is quite interested to know if Hedda is pregnant. But Tesman interprets her vague question about "expectations" into what he thinks she means. Therefore he discusses his expectations of becoming an up and coming professor. He is certain he will be appointed a professor but his optimism is premature. Later on in the act, he will discover that his friend and rival Lövborg is in competition for this post. Aunt Julia's inquiry about the two empty rooms is again translated into having the ability to expand his library.
When Hedda makes an entrance one immediately notices her air of haughty formality with Aunt Julia. She does not like the bright sunshine streaming in and draws the curtains to give a softer light. It is as though she cannot face the revelations brought about by daylight after the first night spent at home with her new husband. She reveals little affection for her husband and shows no sign of treating him with "kid gloves." George's slippers, which Aunt Rina has embroidered, hold no associations for her and she does not share his own sentimental reaction to them. Even when she has made a mistake (which the audience later discovers was deliberate) regarding Aunt Julia's bonnet she does not apologize. Aunt Julia becomes formal with her and addresses her as "Madam Hedda." However, she forgets the insult when Tesman remarks that Hedda has "filled out on the journey." Hedda reacts impatiently to this news and does not see why she has to fulfill a woman's natural destiny. When she is left alone in the room she 'clenches her hands as if in desperation."
Marriage clearly is not an attractive proposition to her and she is already bored. The leaves "are so yellow - so withered" for she does not find beauty in this life. She is also extravagant in her tastes. She is not concerned about spending Tesman's money prudently for she wants a new piano and refuses to exchange her old one.
Another character, Judge Brack, makes his entrance in this Act. The greeting Hedda exchanges with him "It's nice to have a look at you by daylight, Judge!" conveys they know each other well. Brack then relays that he has heard that Tesman's appointment should not be taken for granted as he may have a competitor for the job, Eilert Lövborg. Tesman is concerned because Hedda will now have to put up with a "shabby style of living". Hedda's reaction is not one of normal concern as she says that she finds the contest - interesting: "I am not at all indifferent. I am most eager to see who wins" This competitive air is a marked theme throughout the play as the characters, Brack, Tesman, Thea, Hedda, and Eilvert whether they are conscious of it or not, are constantly competing with each other. The image of her father's pistols adds a dramatic as well as violent edge to the act's ending. Hedda elliptically says that she will be able to waylay boredom by the use of her father's pistols. These pistols are symbolic of her desire to enter the male world with all its freedoms that are denied her.
Act I gives a full picture of the Tesman household and introduces all the main problems. It draws the tensions and rivalries between the various characters and the web of intrigue that surrounds them. It also gives the reader a hint as to how the tragedy is going to unfold. The act also introduces the theme of the limitations of women regardless of class. They are expected to confirm and marry or slip into spinster-hood like Aunt Julia who caters to other people's needs and does not lead an independent life of her own. This is a role that Hedda retaliates against but nevertheless conforms to. Despite appearing weaker of the two, Mrs. Elvsted is the nonconformist, the one who has the courage to rebel but what the future holds for her is yet to be seen.