Ibsen’s Ghosts Most readers and playgoers see George Tesman as a decent, kind human being. But...

Ibsen’s Ghosts

Most readers and playgoers see George Tesman as a decent, kind human being. But there are some minority opinions. Elizabeth Hardwick finds him "much more of a girl" than Hedda is. An explanation for this might be that he was brought up by aunts, while she was raised by a general. Joan Templeton not only thinks he is a comic character but even calls him "one of Ibsen's most successful comic creations." She goes on to call him "an infantile adult." How would you describe or evaluate Tesman? What kind of person is he? Do you agree with any of these assessments? Why or why not? (They are not mutually exclusive; you may find him a combination of positive and negative traits.)

Homework Answers

Answer #1

In Ibsen’s Ghosts, Jorgen Tesman is presented as a generous yet naI’ve man, who spent his formative years in a protected and a relatively spoilt environment sheltered from the outside world by his two aunts. This lack of exposure to the harshness of reality seems to have reinforced his optimism about the world and the people around him. He fails to see or acknowledge flaws in his marriage or even his competitors and foes such as Lovebourg or Brack. However, more than a sense of sympathy, his naivety induces annoyance in the readership as it is presented as a rather selfish trait as he does not resolve to solve nor ask about the problems of others around him, especially his wife Hedda. In Act one Tesman is shown to be nonchalant when he fails to show empathy when his Aunt Julle claims to have bought bought na expensive hat in order to appease Hedda in the latter’s concern for keeping a social face in public. However, instead of any reassuring her of her honour and comforting her, he pats her cheek as if she was a child as he says, "You always think of everything don't you Aunt Julle."

Thus, Tesman’s character  makes the reader question whether he is any different from an ordinary man with his morality, and his moral decisions being depicted as neither better nor worse than most of us. While Joan Templeton’s analysis of Tesman’s character profile may seem disbelieving at first, it is difficult to not accept that there is some weight in her assessment. The conversation with Hedda towards the end show his naivete and immaturity regarding heterosexual relations. Throughout this scene, Hedda warns Tesman to be quiet so as to avoid scandal and to maintain her privacy from Berta. But Tesman fails to scale the situation and reacts in a ridiculously childlike zeal wanting to disclose about his ability to invite female attention and bear a child with Hedda.

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