The Representation Of The Social Group In Hedda Gabler

Henrik Ibsen was a famous playwriter who violated social norms and standards that were common at the time. Hedda Gabler is a play set mainly in the living room of the Tesman’s. The story revolves around Hedda Gabler who marries George Tesman. The couple arrives from their six-month honeymoon and Hedda is proving quite challenging to manage. Soon after Thea Elvsted enters bringing news of the return of George’s rival Eilert who initially is a social misfit from drinking. Thea tells of Eilert’s soberness and his new manuscript. His arrival threatens the professorship that George eyes. Hedda fishes information from Thea about her fears of Eilert starting to drink again. Later on, Hedda plays Eilert against Thea making him join George and Judge Brack for a drink. They later leave to join a stag party leaving Hedda and Thea home by themselves. By dawn, they are yet to come prompting Hedda to send Thea to sleep in her bed while she lays down on the couch. Tesman arrives announcing to Hedda that he has the manuscript by Eilert that he dropped on the way. However, he maintains that he plans to give it back. As he attends to the news of Aunt Rina’s death, Hedda takes the manuscript. Eilert later arrives to tell Hedda that he lost his manuscript and wanted to kill himself and she hands him a gun which he accidentally shoots himself with and is sent to the hospital where he later dies. With the possibility of a scandal ensuing for Hedda, she opts to shoot herself.

Henrik Ibsen brings out the social grouping in the story by dividing the characters into two main social groups; the middle-class and the upper class. Some of the characters such as Hedda initially belong to the upper social group, and despite not having much wealth, she still clings to the class. A representation of the middle class is George Tesman. The middle-class group’s wealth comes from inheritance and is not stable in addition to having restrictions. Eilert loses his social grouping by behaving differently than the society expected and accepted. On the other hand, the upper social group has wealth earned by themselves such as the case of Judge Brack and initially, Hedda’s father.

The representation of the social group in this story is also through the attitudes of the characters. Hedda, for example, is very rude and difficult simply because she comes from a high social group. She expects exceptional treatment since she is beautiful and her wealthy father’s daughter. The middle-class, on the other hand, tend to accommodate the whims of the higher group. George Tesman, for example, goes all out to ensure the comfort of his new bride and even gets his Aunt Julia involved in securing a new house for his wife, Hedda. Contrary to their belief, Hedda does not even like the house.

Ibsen shows that people will do anything to maintain their social group. Hedda Gabler marries Tesman for financial reasons, and so did Thea. Thea married an older man not out of love but for social status. Social status during the Victorian era was extremely important, it brought people a degree of honor, which was attached to one’s position in the society. Marriage puts her in upper class position, which provided her with a powerful position in the society, providing her with better living conditions, as well as authority. Whereas compared to working class, which was the most downgraded, which often resulted in negligible food resources, poor living conditions as well as marginalization. She says of her marriage, ‘Oh those five years—! Or at all events the last two or three of them! Oh, if you could only imagine’. Hedda admits that she married Tesman because he was willing to do more than her other suitors. She says, ‘…he was bent, at all hazards, on being allowed to provide for me — I do not know why I should not have accepted his offer? ‘. There is no affection at all; it is all about social groups and comfort in life. Hedda looks at the suitor most willing to give her desired lifestyle and chooses him on that basis.

There is a representation of social groupings in identity. The story’s title is Hedda Gabler, evidence that individuals tend to focus on their preferred social grouping. Hedda, despite being married to George Tesman prefers that people view her as Gabler’s daughter, the child of a wealthy and powerful man rather than the wife of George Tesman, an aspiring professor. Thea also follows Eilert but retains her identity as Mrs. Elvsted. She is also championing for Eilert not to ruin his social standing through drinking and hopes that he amounts to a professor.

However, the author also shows that social groupings are not permanent. Despite Hedda living in denial about her wealth, it is true that she fell from an upper social grouping and is just grasping on the perception of the middle –class provided by Tesman. Hedda’s father dies leaving her with a small amount of money meaning that he lost much of his wealth. Eilert finds it had to believe that Hedda could even marry into such a class. He exclaims, ‘Hedda Gabler married? Moreover, married to — George Tesman!’ Such a scenario is unbelievable, but Hedda responds merely that that is how the world goes. George Tesman also needs the professorship for the family not to sink into poverty since they use much money in purchasing the house for Hedda putting them in a difficult situation. In a way, these classes are superficial and have the potential to collapse at any moment.

The author’s representation of social grouping is a way of showing the pretense and sacrifice that comes with maintaining a specific social image without allowing people to show their true selves. Additionally, the social groupings also impact on the personality of an individual including the fear of losing the class. Hedda cannot even acknowledge her pregnancy for the fear that it affects her social standing as the beautiful lady. The play teaches the audience that social standings are temporal and the need to maintain them has the potential to cause grievous harm and even death.

16 December 2021
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