A spider becomes caught in its own web. This is an example of an attempted manipulation that went awry. Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen, is a work about a woman who manipulates the fates of others in order to fulfill her own desires. The title character is a woman who has recently returned from a six-month honeymoon with her groom, Tesman, a man whom she does not love. She yearns for freedom but feels as if she cannot leave her marriage. To occupy her time, she manipulates the lives of everyone around her. Hedda kills herself after becoming engrossed in her own manipulations.
Through the use of theme, setting, and current affairs, Ibsen produces a work that uniquely portrays the sources of the motivations of this manipulative woman. Whether it be the burning of her former lover’s manuscript or supplying him with the pistol to shoot himself, Hedda’s malevolence shows the ability of man to have total disregard for the life of another. Hedda coldly manipulates the lives of everyone around her. Through these manipulative actions, she ruins the lives of all her acquaintances. Because she is not happy in her marriage, she attempts to forbid anyone else from living a content life. For example, after she persuades Eljert Lvborg to consume alcohol, he ruins his reputation and loses something that is most precious to him: the manuscript of a book that he had been writing with Mrs. Elvsted.
Although Hedda realizes the importance of this manuscript to both Lvborg and Mrs. Elvsted, she chars it. Because Lvborg and Mrs. Elvsted have put their souls into this manuscript, Hedda metaphorically relates her action to burning their child. This cold thoughtlessness demonstrates Hedda’s disregard for the life of a fellow human being. Hedda’s actions ultimately lead to her demise. After giving Lvborg her pistol and insinuating that he must kill himself, Hedda’s cruel intentions are finally revealed. Judge Brack learns of her dealings and gains an opportunity to take advantage of this situation. When Hedda realizes that she will always be at the mercy of Judge Brack, she does the only thing she can do to escape this situation; she shoots herself.
Throughout her manipulations, Hedda maintains a facade of innocence. Her truly malevolent nature, though, is displayed through her actions that relate to this theme of man’s inhumanity to man. One may be able to determine the cause of Hedda’s desire to manipulate when the setting is examined. The whole of the play occurs indoors. Therefore, Hedda is constantly submerged in a place in which she is unhappy. Because her husband Tesman is constantly occupied with other happenings, Hedda is left in a setting that lends itself to plans of manipulation.
Hedda’s true dreams and aspirations are those of freedom and independence. However, her setting is an antithesis of her proclivity. While Hedda maintains a desire to be free to do as she pleases, her situation is one in which she is confined to her home. Because she constantly remains in this monotonous setting, she occupies her time with scheming against everyone around her. This is perhaps the principal cause of Hedda’s manipulations.