An exploration of the reality through appearance and speech of the female protagonists in Hedda Gabler and Uncle Vanya. This will be shown through society pressure, the way the marriage, relationships and love triangles are presented and what they are at practice, the dominance of sexuality in women, the result of selfish motives, the gaining of self-pity and through character’s opinion’s on other characters. The character’s speech and interactions with various characters helps reveal thier personality and the way the want to be presented in their society.
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Hedda Gabler’s marriage to Jorgen Tesman was forced under the norms of the society and was obligatory as it was her time. “I had simply danced myself out, my dear sir. My time was up.”  , said by Hedda to Brack, who is an outsider to their marriage but is according to Hedda a part of her circle, where class distinction plays a part. Hedda’s interest in marrying Tesman developed by her believing in the possibility of Tesman becoming a successful writer due to his hard work , this belief of her shows the base of thier relation but Hedda then regrets her decision as Tesman doesn’t achieve success and she gradually parts away from him. She commits to the offer laid by Tesman, “And since he insisted with might and main on being allowed to support me, I don’t know why I shouldn’t have accepted the offer.”  . The way Hedda portrays herself to Tesman and the world is depicting her “society self” ,where she tries to hide her riotous side and towards the end of the play before she kills herself, she plays the wild piano piece which shows her claiming back to her inner desire before they sink, which is her essential self.
Similarly in Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, Helen and Serebryakov’s relationship is rather synthetic. “They all run down my husband and look at me as if they are sorry for me. Poor girl, she’s married to an old man. This sympathy for me, oh well I understand it.”  , shows the dissatisfaction and boredom that Helen has towards her marriage to an older man. An obligatory marriage where Helen tries to portray herself to be content with her life with a “learned professor” as a result of her impetuous decision. Likewise Hedda Gabler, Helen was also allured with the professor’s public reputation of being a scholar. Her regret is shown throughout through her interactions with other characters except for Serebryakov himself as it was mistake she committed at a young age out of attraction, “It wasn’t real love, it was quite artificial, but it seemed real enough at the time.”  Helen shows the world and Serebryakov her loyalty towards him except for Voynitsky and Sonya whom she can open to. Voynitsky is in love with her and also doubts her commitment, “Because she’s faithful in a way that’s so thoroughly bogus”  . Towards the end Helen like Hedda comes out of the fake mask of adherence and lets out her lust towards an attractive doctor, Astrov. Both these marriages are wrapped around with a facade of lies and forced commitments. This is conveyed through their boredom and societal appearance to blend in.
Hedda Gabler’s relationship with her husband’s aunt, Juliane Tesman is extremely superficial,this is due to the class difference. Although Hedda knows that there is a class distinction and that Miss Tesman is now part of her family , she purposely implies Miss Tesman’s position and makes her feel uneasy at Tesman’s house who is dearly close to his aunt. Miss Tesman on the other hand endeavours to impress Hedda, and Hedda takes advantage of it. For example, Miss Tesman has bought a new hat and gets compliments on it by Jorgen; Hedda insults it by saying that the maid has left her hat on the chair. But in reality, Hedda is aware that the hat belongs to Miss Tesman as she confesses to Brack. “Well, you know that kind of thing comes over me-just like that. And then I can’t stop myself. I don’t know myself, how to explain it.”  Hedda appears to be friendly and caring when confronting Miss Tesman but in the inside she cannot relate to Miss Tesman due to their class distinction.
On the other hand, Helen is quite open with her relationship with Sonya. It is prominent that tension lies between Sonya and Helen. Sonya and Helen’s relationship is the major reason for it, as Sonya feels inferior having Helen as her mother at almost the same age. Helen is also aware of Sonya’s uneasiness with thier relationship, “You’re angry with me because you think I married your father for selfish reasons.”  As the plot progresses Helen and Sonya reconcile their differences.
There is a contrast between Hedda and Helen here as Hedda continues to show gratitude to Miss Tesman eventhough she can never make herself forget the class difference, the reason why she appears to be kind to Miss Teman is due to her marriage and also due to her society reputation. But Helen is more open with her relationship with Sonya and confesses that she “married him for love” and not for “selfish reasons”.
Hedda Gabler is an unpredictable and notorious, she is a part of four loves triangles in the plot and shares a deep chemistry with three characters, including her husband. Her urge to freedom makes her lust more for what she, had lost in the past that is the other two men in her life: Brack and Lovborg. Hedda’s relationship with Brack is rather open but infront of the society Brack appears to be Tesman’s friend. The ultimate reason for Hedda’s openness around Brack is because they belong to the small “circle” and she is able to relate to him as she is not used to the class distinction. Hedda’s interest in Lovborg is been seen from the beginning itself through her constant curiosity concerning him. Through Hedda’s desperation and inquisitiveness for Lovborg it is for certain that she shares a history with him. Although she strongly desires to share a sexual relationship with Brack and Lovborg she feels restricted due to her fear of scandal and does not want to be close to anyone. Therefore she appears to be conservative and has self control in front of the society when her actual motives are different, for example she initially planned to spend her night with but instead she creates an opening to a havoc but making Lovborg drink after two years of sobriety.
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Helen is the beautiful wife of Serebryakov and is able to captivate the doctor Astrov and make Voynitsky indulge into idleness due to love for her. Helen’s relationship with the professor is more of a nurse, although she says she was “attracted” by him but also contradicts by saying that it was a hasty decision like an infatuation. She wants to make the professor believe she loves him due to his health problems but as Sonya becomes her friend she is able to open up to her and tell her the reality although Sonya is he professor’s daughter. Helen is attracted to Astrov as she is not able to control her feelings and embraces him, although throughout she appears to be not interested due to her marriage with the professor but is able to open up to Voynitsky.
Hedda is never able to express her feelings and that is what consequences to her death. She is always feels insecure and has pressure due to society and thats whats keeps her from completely opening to people, even her own husband. Helen on the other hand clearly protraits the reason for her appearance to the society and to her husband. Helen rather runs away to a new life unlike Hedda and is able to express her feelings towards Astrov and Voynitsky towards the end of the plot, leaving Voynitsky in pain.
The appearance of women towards other men and even their own husbands is due to society’s norms and expectations. In Hedda Gabler, Hedda is a different person to each man that revolves in her life. Her behaviour toward her husband, Mr. Tesman, is of sophistication and fake love, on the other hand she is her “wild” self with Brack and shares a mysterious relationship with Lovborg which is never revealed to a deeper extend. In Uncle Vanya Helen’s feelings towards her marriage to the professor are confronted to Sonya, the professor’s daughter, to be a hasty decision and rather an infatuation. But Helen goes out of her way to make the professor feel that she is entirely in love with him, by taking full care of his medical conditions and not giving into her feelings for Astrov and therefore runs away from her love. These men have the eyes to see that Hedda and Helen need their husbands in their life with a little pleasure from other men. These men dispose their “gift of penetration” with the reality in front of them and therefore seek towards their selfish needs.
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