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It would be harsh and insensitive to label Ibsen’s famous character cowardly; there is evidence on both sides. We may think of her as cowardly if we only take her suicide, but the development of the character reveals that her social and private situation, together with the unwanted attention of Judge Brack, shows a courageous person driven into a corner. First, that she dismisses her married name (Tesman) in favor of her General father’s name shows a strength of character, especially in a society where women are treated as second-class citizens, shows she has much of her father’s bravery in her. She may have been too “cowardly” to accept Lovborg’s attentions when young, since he was as an “artist,” and agreed to Lovborg’s courtship as a safer choice, although by comparing the two men’s theses, Ibsen demonstrates who is the smarter and larger thinker. When Hedda is faced with her poor choice, she burns their “baby,” Lovborg’s manuscript, which may be seen as a cowardly act to destroy the Lovborg-Mrs. Elvsted connection. Probably the most “cowardly” part of Hedda’s suicide is Tesman’s unborn child she is carrying.
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