Hedda Gabler is a play written by ‘the father of modern drama’, Norwegian playwriter Henrick Ibsen, in the last half of the 19th century. The play reveals the lifestyle and thoughts of a desperate housewife, who is limited by Victorian values. He has to marry a man without loving feelings, and their life is filled with boredom and self-interests. Her only option for entertaining herself is manipulating others, which is the focus of the plot. The main heroine resents the men around her and the restriction imposed on her. Consequently, relationships with men are important for understanding the meaning of the work. In general, the male characters, who surrounded Tesman, Loevborg, and Brack, reflect the qualities of the main heroine despite all the differences between them.
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Hedda Gabler’s Relationships with Tesman
Tesman is Hedda’s spouse, though the relationships between them are not based on warmth, love, and understanding. As for the wife, her reason why she accepted the proposal was not loving feelings. The heroine proceeded from the fact that she is not young anymore, and for this reason, she should take the chance to be married. In addition, Hedda took into consideration the intelligence of her potential spouse. Tesman is more interested in his professional activity and pays little attention to his wife’s life.
Tesman is a gentleman, who is from a class lower than his wife. Hedda is formal, sophisticated, and reserved, while her husband is “a simple soul” (Ibsen 834). The heroine resents the origin of Tesman, though it presents a quality, that her husband is incapable of changing. She states: “Tesman always goes around worrying about how people are going to make a living”. Hedda is convinced that case her husband was an aristocrat, he would not pay much attention to this issue, as he would not worry about it at all.
In the play, it is possible to note another aspect, which caused Hedda’s disrespect for Tesman. She criticizes his approach to his professional activity for the lack of creativity. Hedda compares his works with Eilert’s ones, who is creative and wrote a controversial books. The heroine marks: “It would never have occurred to [him] to write about anything like that” (Ibsen 837). Tesman is incapable of creating something new and can only replicate what others have already done. Even the character admits: “setting other people’s papers in order [is] exactly what I can do best” (Ibsen 845). This specialty of Tesman reflects its social position as well. He tends to follow all the rules without asking a question about their necessity and fairness. On the contrary, the heroine resented the common social role of wife and mother, which was provocative at that time. Therefore, the spouses are different, which prevents them from understanding each other. Moreover, the differences between them present a matter of disrespect for Hedda.
As it is evident from the description presented above, the heroine does not have romantic feelings toward her husband. As for Tesman, his love causes a great number of doubts. Despite the fact that he claims “adoration” for his wife, it is possible to notice that there is no evidence for such a strong feeling (Ibsen 826). In general, it is challenging to understand his attitude toward Hedda, as Tesman is star-struck to a large extent, which prevents him from treating his wife as a real wife. He enjoys caring for Hedda and satisfies her requests, though the character constantly congratulates himself for marrying successfully. He mentions: “I rather suspect I have several friends who’d like to trade places with me” (Ibsen 815). In general, he is not acquainted with real Hedda. These facts question his love for the heroine.
Therefore, the relationships between spouses lack an in-depth understanding of each other. The wife cannot accept the drawback of her husband and resents his origin. Tesman is delighted by his lucky marriage, though he does not know his wife and her inner world at all. Their relationships are more formal than warm, loving, and supportive. In addition, the spouses have different priorities in life and worldview in general.
Hedda Gabler’s Relationships with Loevborg
Loevborg is the man, whom Hedda loved in the past. Now he is back, though he is in a relationship with another woman. In addition, it is challenging to understand the type of relationships between Hedda and Loevborg in the past. It is possible to notice the hints that Eilert offered intimacy to the heroine, though she refused him despite her desire. Hedda considered her refusal a sign of cowardice. The heroine understood the negative consequences for her and her reputation, which led her to this decision. Furthermore, compared to Tesman, Eilert’s origin seems more attractive to the heroine, as his family is wealthy and aristocratic. Therefore, in Hedda’s eyes, the character looks higher than her husband.
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The most important aspect of the relationship regards the fact that Hedda is delighted by Loevborg only when he sticks to alcohol. She is fascinated by the idea that despite all the strict rules imposed on society, Eilert dares to resist them. Hedda perceives this behavior as a sign of courage. However, now the character is in a relationship with Thea, who resents the drinking habit of the man. Furthermore, she encourages Loevborg to adhere to a conformist lifestyle. She admires his scholarship and stimulates him to refuse to drink. Thus, Loevborg becomes uninteresting to Hedda, and she regards it as cowardice. She prompts the man to stick to drinking again.
It should be mentioned that there is no rivalry between women for Loevborg. However, Hedda and Thea compete for the particular qualities of the character, for the control of his destiny. As for Loevborg, he prefers to follow Thea’s guidelines: although Hedda prompts him to drink, he refuses. Therefore, it can be noted that the character is always imposed on by some power. He does not control his life by himself but listens to other people.
This way, it can be concluded that Hedda is not in real love with Loevborg. She is fascinated by his image of renegade, as she perceives it as courage. In addition, resenting the social rules reflects her worldview. In her eyes, on the contrary with her husband, the character shares her desire for change, though he is not powerful enough to realize it. However, she is incapable of noticing the weakness of the man. In general, the heroine is impressed by the figure of Loevborg, which she imagines herself, rather than the real Loevborg.
Hedda Gabler’s Relationships with Brack
Throughout the whole play, Brack helps different characters to release their intentions and desires. Even when he comes for a visit to Tesmans, he shares that he contributed to the fact that Hedda’s husband became a professor. In addition, the man predicts and assures that Tesman will have a successful career. Therefore, Brack creates an image of a man of action, who has enough power and knowledge.
There is a range of similarities between the heroine and Brack. It is apparent that the character is smart, which is the same as Hedda. This is why they can banter with each other sharply. Moreover, he has a strong intuition, which allows him to make precise assumptions about the facts, which are not evident. Hedda also managed to reveal the relationships between Thea and Loevborg, and Brack could guess about past relationships between Hedda and the same man. He does not support traditional Victorian values and has similar views on marriage. In general, Brack is the male embodiment of the main heroine.
Brack is the only character in the play, with whom the main heroine is honest. He is aware of her ability to make other people confess and uses this fact against her. Hedda reveals to him her trick with Aunt Julie’s hat. During the honest conversation with the man, she pronounces: “These things come over me, just like that, suddenly. And I can’t hold back” (Ibsen 855). At this moment, she abandons her manipulative behavioral patterns and stays real. Furthermore, at the end of the play, he appears to be the only character, who manages to have power over Hedda. He became her destiny, the same as Hedda was determined to be for Loevborg.
After reviewing the qualities and Brack and his relationships with Hedda, it would be logical to say that the main heroine falls in love with him. However, this statement does not match the real sequence of events. The possible reason for it is the fact that he attempted to blackmail Hedda into having a romantic relationship with him. Although she flirted with Brack, she confessed that she had no serious intentions. In addition, Hedda judges that the man, the same as her husband, is obsessed with one aim, which makes him look boring in her eyes. These aspects made relationships between the characters impossible, though Brack showed some signs of sympathy.
In conclusion, it can be stated that all the male characters, with whom the main heroine communicated throughout the play, reflect her as a mirror. As it has been described, Brack appears to be the male embodiment of Hedda. Being a character of action, he illustrated her desire for changes in society. The man was capable of solving any issue despite its hardness, and he shared the same perspective on marriage. This is the image, which Hedda was determined to achieve.
Tesman, her husband, reflects all the aspects, that the woman resents. He is a typical example of Victorian values, who could only follow the rules without questioning them. It can be highlighted that Tesman and Brack are opposite each other. Consequently, although there is a range of similarities between Brack and Hedda, Loevborg is the closest to the heroine. Hedda was convinced of his courage, though, in fact, the man is weak and easy to be imposed. In the end, unlike Brack, the heroine does not solve the problem but escapes from it. She believed in her ideas and power, the same as she believed in Loevborg, though she could not use them to make a change.
Ibsen, Henrik. “Hedda Garbler.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature Vol 2 Shorter Fourth Edition, Edited by Martin Puchner, et al., W. W. Norton, 2019, 810-866.