Ibsen uses contrasting aspects of the two characters Eilert Lovborg and George Tesman to highlight the wide range of desires Hedda has when it came to being satisfied in a relationship. This highlights Hedda’s incapability to be satisfied by only one man, representing how she will always want more than what she can have. These two characters are very different, but they have certain qualities that make them similar. Both characters have feelings for Hedda, and they have been at one point or another been in a relationship with her. In addition the two men are both authors even though they write about different subjects. The similarity between them signifies Hedda’s attraction to men who are relatively intelligent, as Hedda has no trace of falling for a man who has no skill. Both men are authors which represent knowledge, a trait Hedda highly regards.
Although several similarities, Tesman’s marriage is fake compared to Lovborg’s relationship with Hedda which was portrayed to be more natural. This can be conveyed through many things for example Tesman and Hedda’s marriage happened mainly because of social conformity. At this time it was socially unacceptable for a woman to decline a wedding proposal from an ideal man. Also, Hedda states that her “time was up” (pg251) and that Tesman was “a thoroughly acceptable choice” (pg251), showing how although she was not in love with Tesman the decent decision, considering her age and status, was to marry him.
Another reason why Hedda stays with Tesman is the fact that he gives Hedda the freedom she desires. Although throughout the play she exclaims how she is “bored”, if Tesman were to demand certain things from Hedda (such as bearing a child), it would upset her even more. Tesman is also intrigued and absorbed in his work that little attention is put to the fact that he may be the inferior one in the relationship. As a result of Tesman’s oblivion, Hedda is able control him to her own content. However all of this is not enough for her, she still longs for other qualities in a relationship, and what Tesman lacks is what was fulfilled by Lovborg.
Lovborg’s relationship with Hedda (although it may have been in the past) was voluntary and their relationship was something more meaningful than social conformity. Lovborg was one of the furthest men from ideal but yet Hedda chose to have a relationship with him. Through the play it is evident that Lovborg and Hedda had many meaningful conversations as well as sexual experiences. Ibsen mentions Lovborg and Hedda having sexual connection to highlight the excitement and intensity of their relationship in contrast to the relationship between her and Tesman where sexual experienced were never mentioned.
Lovborg is also the only character throughout this play who understands her reference to “vine leaves”, which symbolize the depth of their connection beyond others. Hedda questions if it’s wrong for a “young girl-if there’s no chance of anyone knowing-that she’d like some glimpse of the world that-that she’s forbidden to know anything about” (pg 265), which shows Hedda’s personality that enjoys conflicts and taking risks.
Thus the secret affair with Lovborg fulfilled her admiration towards forbidden love. Through this Lovborg’s relationship may have seemed appealing, lovborg did not have the qualities Hedda wanted. For example Lovborg was a man who was unsuccessful at the time who had a drinking problem, which lead Hedda to believe he was not a reliable source of money and stability. Also, Lovborg wasn’t open to the idea of marriage, a vital requirement in a woman’s life in that time period, which repelled her away from him.
Through this it can be concluded that in order for Hedda to be completely ‘satisfied’ she needed qualities of both men; the money, marriage, and freedom from Tesman; and the adventure and personal connection from Lovborg. Although straddling between two men, Hedda was never fully content with the men she had or the situations she was in. Because Hedda always wanted more than what she had, she resulted into suicide without ever being fully pleased with her life.