January 12, 2018 at 10:50 am #454
In Act IV of Hedda Gabler, Thea Elvsted’s self-preserving response to dashed hopes—the unprecedented suicide of Ejlert Lovborg—asserts her character as being adaptive and intelligent. Hedda, along with most of the male characters in the play, view Thea as being generally weak and easily pliable. However, Thea sets herself apart as being able to craft her own destiny, while remaining in the good graces of others.
Throughout the play, Ibsen provides subtle evidence of Thea’s ability to take calculated risks. In the antecedent action, Thea landed herself a governess position with the affluent, albeit prehistoric, town magistrate, and used her leverage to become his bride once his previous wife passed. This marriage would have granted Thea with valuable societal status and enough wealth to live a lavish and sophisticated life. However, her desire for an intimate connection produces misery in her marriage, and she aims for more. Ambitiously involving herself with the astute yet broken Lovberg, she learns from him academic insight and molds him to a man worthy of her connection by encouraging his sobriety. Ejlert may have taught Thea, but Thea freed him, creating a lasting and powerful connection.
When Ejlert finally returns bearing a transformative manuscript written with Thea’s immeasurable assistance, Thea at once packs the things she needs and leaves her intolerable husband. Though she will have created a community scandal and tarnished her reputation, Ejlert will soon be twice published and is en route to a lasting academic career that will ensure status and wealth, along with the intimate connection Thea desires. Thea’s carefully laid plans begin to crumble once Hedda reveals Thea’s meticulous monitoring of Ejlert. A chain reaction commences: Ejlert drinks away Thea’s trusts, loses the novel borne of love they had written together and kills himself and Thea’s grand future. A woman in Thea’s time period had limited freedoms, and Thea had already suffered a massive blow. If Thea was the timid and meek girl that cowered from the hair-pulling Hedda in school, it could be anticipated that she would return to her dreadful husband and beg his forgiveness and to return to him. After all, hadn’t the demise of her selfish ambition taught her anything?
Thea shows persistence and her own subtle manipulation by suddenly remembering the rough notes of Ejlert’s manuscript in her handbag. Under the guise of writing in memory of Ejlert, Thea enlists Mr. Tesman’s assistance in reassembling the novel. Although she was considered a comrade and partner in the creation of the novel, suddenly Thea is confused and requires another academic man to reorganize this masterpiece. Conveniently, Thea is gifted lodging with the ever-charitable Juliane.
Even in the event of a tragedy, Thea demonstrates immense adaptiveness and craftiness that bestow her with opportunity to succeed, despite immense restrictions on her because of her womanhood. Thea has successfully extricated herself from her husband and is involved in a riveting academic project that may land her profits. In the wake of Hedda’s suicide, the sympathetic Mrs. Elvsted may yet make a perfect match for the hurting Tesman. Thea Elvsted may outwardly conform to the social standards that limit her, yet a deeper investigation of her character showcases her capacity to adjust to change and her ability to advance her circumstances.
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