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MonkeyNotes-Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

Hedda Gabler

George Bernard Shaw has remarked: "Hedda Gabler has no ethical ideals at all, she has only romantic ones. She is a typical nineteenth century figure falling into the abyss between the ideals, which do not impose on her, and the realities she has not yet discovered. The result is that though she has imagination, and an intense appetite for beauty, she has no conscience, no conviction: with plenty of cleverness, energy, and personal fascination, she remains mean, envious, insolent, fiendish in her dislike of inartistic people and things, a bully in reaction from her own cowardice."

Most of the people who come into contact with Hedda Gabler are intimidated by her. The maid Berte thinks she will be "terrible ground" in her way; Aunt Julia feels that this is inevitable because, after all, she is General Gabler's daughter and is accustomed to a particular way of life in her father's house. Because of her emotional represssion, Hedda invests much of her life in material items. Aunt Julia cannot be accommodated in the Tesman's carriage because of the pile of boxes Hedda brings with her. This displays her expensive habits but also reveals an obsession with the external rather than internal. Hedda cannot look too deeply inward as she fears what she will find. She is a frustrated woman who does not feel comfortable in any of the suitable roles for women: wife, caregiver, and housekeeper. Rather than defy social convention, she attempts to conform which results in destructive impulses such as manipulating people like Thea and treating her husband and his family very coldly.


She adopts an attitude of frosty formality with Aunt Julia and countermands all her orders like having the chintz covers removed from the chairs. She adopts an attitude of indifference whenever Tesman talks about his Aunts. She does not hesitate to embarrass Aunt Julia about the bonnet. As she confesses later to Brack - "these impulses come over me all of a sudden, and I cannot resist them." She cannot bring herself to use the informal "du" with Aunt Julia despite Tesman's request. Even the prospect of bearing a child drives her frantic for she considers it a betrayal of her attempts to keep herself internally protected from all threats. Hedda has not been trained for this kind of life. Instead, she has been taught to ride and shoot and subordinate those in a lower rank. She is the product of a military upbringing and the world she identifies with is more male than female. That is why she lacks compassion for people like Mrs. Elvsted and Aunt Julia.

Hedda is perpetually bored. To amuse herself she practices shooting with her father's pistols. These pistols also keep ardent suitors like Brack and Lövborg at bay though she does not mind carrying on a flirtation with them. To Brack she confesses that throughout her honeymoon she wished for nothing but to return home. She finds that to be "everlastingly" in the company of the same person who is also a "specialist" gives rise to boredom. Love for her is a "sickening" word. She does not love her husband nor, by her own admission, Lövborg.

She has married Tesman for very practical reasons. Having reached a certain age and possibly lacking the financial resources to live independently, Hedda consents to marrying a safe and respectable man. Her desire for conformity drives her to marry Tesman though she has no faith in their marriage. Emotionally Tesman will not disturb her. However, the downside of this is that her marriage to Tesman leads to boredom. When Brack suggests that Hedda accept him as a third party for a "triangular friendship," she agrees to do so within the prescribed limits. However, she makes it clear that she will never risk scandal for she is enslaved to a standard of social conventionality.

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