The Concept of Goodness in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler
According to Albert Einstein’s research, there is no such thing as cold. Cold is simply the absence of warmth. The same is true for darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light, and like that, death is only the absence of life. In a continuation of his revelation, it could be inferred that evil, is only the absence of good. History shows that there are varying degrees of goodness in people. Mother Theresa is generally seen as someone who contains almost only goodness, whereas Hitler would be recognized as being almost if not completely vacant of all good. Similar to historical figures, fictional characters in literature can be looked at and judged by their goodness. Henrik Ibsen, author of Hedda Gabler, wrote his famous piece displaying characters with personalities that contrast each other greatly. Miss Tesman and Berte are two very kind characters that live to please and help others, while Hedda is a character with an atrocious personality, containing perhaps only a little more goodness in her than Hitler had in him. George Bernard Shaw commented on how difficult it would to play Hedda. Usually the protagonist is a person that the audience is inclined to build empathetic connections with. But whoever played Hedda was forced to carry her in a way that would attract scorn. Hedda’s character attracts only scorn. In the beginning of the play, Hedda seems rude and obstinate, as the play continued, a deeper look into her wickedness was given, until finally in the end, the reader is shown what a truly wicked and demented person Hedda is.
In the beginning scene Tesman, and Aunt Julle is talking. Tesman is finally home from a long honeymoon with his wife, Hedda. Hedda is accustomed to only the best things in life. In order to keep Hedda content, Tesman is forced into debt, and his two aunts, that raised him, are forced into taking some major financial risks. Hedda is not even appreciative. Miss Tesman buys an expensive bonnet so that Hedda will not be embarrassed to be seen with her. Tesman takes his aunt’s bonnet and lays it on the chair. When Hedda comes out from her room, she insults the hat, seeming to mistake it for the servant. She says: “[Pointing.] Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair” (Hedda Gabler, Act 1.) Aunt Julle is more sad than offended. This reveals that Hedda’s is very particular about things. It reveals that she does not hesitate to be rude. But Hedda does appear to try to redeem herself by explaining that she didn’t look at it very closely. However, Hedda reveals her true feelings later in a conversation with Brack: “Oh, it was a little episode with Miss Tesman this morning. She had laid down her bonnet on the chair there—[Looks at him and smiles.]—and I pretended to think it was the servant’s” (Act 2.) Hedda begins to display her true wicked colors to the audience. This is only the beginning. Hedda continues to reveal her inner insanity to the audience, making it more difficult to connect with such a wicked person.
Purposely making an elderly lady feel bad is an awful thing to do. But Hedda continues to deeds much more despicable. Hedda pretends to befriend a poor naïve lady named Mrs. Elvisted. Mrs. Elvisted runs away from her husband who neglects her, to be with a man named Mr. Lovborg. Mrs. Elvisted and Mr. Lovborg write a book together. By a series of unfortunate evens, the only copy of the book falls into Hedda’s hands. Hedda, understanding how much the book means to both Mrs. Elvisted and Mr. Lovborg, throws it in her fireplace page by page. Mr. Lovoborg is knows Mrs. Elvisted is going to be heart broken. He cannot bear to tell her he lost it; so rather, he tells her he ripped it into a thousand pieces. He breaks off their relationship in shame. Mrs. Elvisted then leaves the scene, and Hedda and Loveborg are alone together. Further proving her cruel insanity, Hedda tells him that he should commit suicide. She gives him her pistol and tells him to kill himself beautifully. Loveborg goes in search of his book, and somehow gets shot. Ibsen did not make it clear who shot him though. Brack is able to trace the pistol back to Hedda. He promises Hedda that her wicked secret is safe. But she cannot bear the thought of being in the hands of someone else, and she too kills herself. Her evil mind drives her to ruin. It is almost impossible to feel sympathy for her.
Hedda is a person with very little good in her. None of her actions within the drama show any good. In the beginning Hedda is rude and arrogant. Her behavior continues to decline as the play continues. Hedda is a person who insults elderly women for enjoyment. That despicable act alone is evidence enough that she is not a good person. But more evilness is revealed when she burns the precious belonging of two people she pretendes to befriend. Finally she encourages her former friend into committing suicide. She tells him to do it beautifully. Her desire for his “beautiful” suicide is proof that she is obviously demented and sadistic. She finally takes her own life. She reveals how completely vacant of good she is, and she pulls herself away from any sympathy her audience would have normally given to a protagonist. Hedda was her own antagonist.
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