Study Guide

Hedda Gabler Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Henrik Ibsen

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

MISS TESMAN
[Who has been gazing at her with folded hands.] Hedda is lovely—lovely—lovely. [Goes up to her, takes her head between both hands, draws it downwards, and kisses her hair.] God bless and preserve Hedda Tesman—for George's sake. (1.166)

This is one of the first expectations for the future we see in Hedda Gabler, and indeed the plan does go awry.

MRS. ELVSTED
He said that when they parted, she threatened to shoot him with a pistol. (1.385)

In some ways, this is the one plan that does come to fruition in Hedda Gabler. Hedda may not shoot Eilert herself, but she certainly orchestrates his death and is directly responsible for the events leading up to it.

TESMAN
Well but, Judge Brack—it would show the most incredible lack of consideration for me. [Gesticulates with his arms.] For—just think—I'm a married man! We have married on the strength of these prospects, Hedda and I; and run deep into debt; and borrowed money
from Aunt Julia too. Good heavens, they had as good as promised me the appointment. Eh? (1.475)

Tesman’s reaction to this change of plans directly mirrors Hedda’s reaction to the reality of their marriage, which stands in opposition to her expectations.

TESMAN
[Crosses the room.] Oh Hedda—one should never rush into adventures. Eh?
HEDDA
[Looks at him, smiling.] Do you do that? (1.487)

This is interesting: why does Hedda smile here? It’s possible that she’s thinking of her own error, of her own hasty action in marrying George. "I do that," she may be thinking, which is why it amuses her to hear George say the same thing.

TESMAN
Yes, if you only knew how I had been looking forward to it! Fancy—to see you as hostess--in a select circle! Eh? Well, well, well--for the present we shall have to get on without society, Hedda—only to invite Aunt Julia now and then.—Oh, I intended you to lead such an utterly different life, dear—! (1.493)

In Tesman’s mind, his marriage to Hedda isn’t based on any prior assumptions about her future, but rather on her looks and reputation. That’s why a change of plans doesn’t bother him at all; he’s still got his prize.

BRACK
[Looks at her hesitatingly.] I thought that you, like every one else, expected him to attain the highest distinction.
HEDDA
[With an expression of fatigue.] Yes, so I did. (2.72)

As represented by the house, Hedda’s entire marriage is based on false premises. In this way it seems doomed from the start; as readers we hold out no hope for Hedda’s happiness with Tesman.

HEDDA
And so—to help him out of his torment—I happened to say, in pure thoughtlessness, that I should like to live in this villa.
BRACK
No more than that? (2.143-4)

The events of the future are dependant on the smallest of actions. We see this elsewhere in Hedda Gabler, too – for instance, Hedda impulsively hands Eilert one of her pistols, which leads to the Judge’s attempt at blackmail, which leads to Hedda’s suicide.

LØVBORG
Yes, it does; and this one deals with the future.
TESMAN
With the future! But, good heavens, we know nothing of the future!
LØVBORG
No; but there is a thing or two to be said about it all the same. (2.233-5)

It’s funny, Hedda Gabler actually argues against the idea that anything concrete can be said about the future.

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