Burning the Child

Ibsen’s play is centred around Hedda (of course) but what propels the story is in Act 3 is the obsession most of the cast has for Lovborg’s manuscript, which unlike Tesman’s book (or whatever it is he presumes to be doing) seems forward thinking, inspired, creative and even slightly supernatural.  This manuscript, this divine work of art crafted by two comrades, Mrs. Evested and Mr. Lovborg, is the object of everyone’s jealousy.  Mr. Tesman wishes he wrote it and “Mrs. Hedda” (fresh self) wishes she was the muse for the work.  I also believe Brack who clearly has some obsession with Hedda also wishes this manuscript didn’t exist or at least that Loveborg didn’t write it.  The manuscript would have done tremendous things for not only Lovborg’s career but also his life as it would elevate his social standings, provide him with money and perhaps even given him title.  All of the prospects for Lovborg as a result of this manuscript was exactly what people of this class yearned for, it was what Tesman was seeking.  Even though I am concentrating on art/the manuscript I wouldn’t say this art was discussed overtly by Ibsen because I don’t get the sense that it was his focal point.  I think his critique is largely about freedom, choice and courage of people.

However, Ibsen shows how creation and the process of creation is such an intimate in depth emotional connection for the artist.  He also shows how the muse can also become heavily invested in the project. A love grew between Mrs. Elvsted and Mr. Lovborg that I believe may have been the purest love in this play, and the manuscript gave them both purpose.  The analogy made of the manuscript being like a child to the artist – Lovborg and muse – Mrs. Elvsted, after Loveborg explains to Mrs. Evsted that he ripped it to shreds was gut wrenching for her (Act 3 lines 385-408).  They both were torn at his false revelation.  But Ibsen then goes a step further, he gives complete power over to Hedda and has her burn this great work.

Why not keep the manuscript?  Was Ibsen saying here that once the art has died, (Act 3 line 395) so has the artist…was it a foreshadowing of Lovborg’s death?  Is he saying once we our art is involuntarily or maybe even voluntarily taken from us we lose a piece of ourselves?

Also, in class we said “why is Hedda acting like this, she doesn’t get anything out of it”. But after completing the play I disagree.  I believe Hedda as Brack said was more invested in Lovborg than she was willing to admit but he never had the courage I’m guessing because of her social standing to pursue her.  When she saw he gave up his old ways and was getting things on track with Thea Elvsted as the reason – her ego was demolished.  She wants to be wanted by everyone but would be more delighted if Lovborg was invested in her as she believes he once was and as he is in his child she decided to burn.  She wants to be the art and the muse.  She’s just miserable, which we see in the end!



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