Study Guide

Miss Juliana Tesman in Hedda Gabler

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Miss Juliana Tesman

You’re probably tired of hearing us talk about women in Hedda Gabler having empty lives. But unfortunately, the same is true for Miss Tesman. She has to address this problem just like the other female characters. Her answer is caretaking – looking after others to make up for the void. We know that she lives with her invalid sister and devotes her life to looking after her. She enjoys giving up things for George because, as she says, "What other joy do I have in the world?" Notice that after Rina dies, Julie is all too eager to have another invalid, even if it’s a stranger, move into her house. In her own words: "I do so much need someone to live for—I, too." It’s interesting that she says "I, too" – we wonder if Julie, as the oldest woman in the play, really gets it, and perhaps has a greater understanding of this universal female problem.

Because she has devoted her life to others, like George, Miss Tesman firmly believes that he can do no wrong and that those who oppose him can do no right. Just look at the way she talks about Eilert, as a "poor misguided creature" who is now "lying […] in the bed he made" as punishment for standing against her nephew. When she hears that Eilert is coming back to town, she declares that she can’t "for the world believe that he’d stand in [George’s] way again." Like Mrs. Elvsted, Aunt Julie’s character demonstrates that, once a woman chooses a reason to live, it defines not only her actions and existence, but her very mindset and values.

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