Head Gabbler: Not a Victim Perhaps one of the most controversial works of literature of its time, Ibsen Head Gabbler, introduces an interesting cast of characters, with Head, herself, the most infamous. Ibsen portrays Head as a beautiful young woman, who is ultimately bored and unhappy with her life, but there is a question of whether or not her unhappiness is real or created. From the reading, it is apparent it is definitely created.
Head proves to be the ultimate antagonist of the story, through her manipulation of the there characters and her cold, unfeeling personality. With her character and moral compass being quite flawed, Head Gabbler does not, in fact, deserve the sympathy of the audience. Even from the very moment that Head is introduced, it is obvious she is not the average, happy newlywed. The first thing she does is start complaining that the maid has left the curtains open and that she is “drowning in all this sunlight” (Ibsen 859).
Many critics say this is a hidden symbol. According to Hal and Sweet, “Ibsen uses this imminence to Juxtapose two important aspects of Head Gable’s character–she must intro those around her, and she can’t stand the harsh light of reality, a truth that Ibsen will reveal as usurping the very control that Head desires” (n. P. ) From this point on, Head’s character flaws and questionable behavior only continue. During Testament’s aunt Julies visit, she has placed her new hat, which she bought Just to impress Head, on a chair.
When Head sees it, she thinks it is the maids, and says, “Look, she’s left her old hat lying there on that chair What if someone came in and saw that” (Ibsen 860). Testament’s aunt Julie is mortified, and quickly leaves the scene. Head’s brashness and inability to keep her rude comments to herself are seen often throughout the remainder of the play. Head’s ability to manipulate those around her is apparent through each of her interactions with the other characters. She knows what she wants from people and how to get it.
In her conversations with Theta Leveled, she almost bullies Theta into giving her information as to what is going on with Alert LГёVyborg, making Theta incredibly uncomfortable. Head evens acts as if she does not remember how she used to be mean to Theta in school. MRS… ELEVATED: Horribly afraid. Whenever we’d meet on the stairs you always used to pull my hair. HEAD: NO, did I do that? MRS… LEVELED: Yes, you did-”and once you said you’d burn it off (Ibsen 865) Head perhaps has the strongest control over the poor Alert LГёVyborg.
Former lovers, Alert seems to have never gotten over Head, and sees her as the one that got away. Driven by her own selfishness and Jealousy, Head encourages LГёVyborg plan to put an end to his life because he is so upset over the loss of his manuscript. After “Alert LГёVyborg-”Listen to me now-”Can you see to it that-”that when you do it, you the it in beauty? ” (Ibsen 899). She then even goes so far as to giving LГёVyborg one of her own pistols, pushing the idea even further, and then sends him on his way.
Anyone else in this situation would almost certainly encourage someone to stop their thoughts of suicide and seek help, but Head seems to thrive off of causing chaos, using her manipulation techniques to push people to the edge. From as early as the beginning of Act 2, it is clear Head is unhappy with Testament’s inability to provide her with all of the luxuries she desires, and had before she was aired. She has already stretched Desman thin as far as his finances go, with their extravagant honeymoon and all of the new things she has requested, like a new piano.
She even says to Desman, “To begin with, I suppose I can’t have the liveried footmen” (Ibsen 871). Head is so adjusted to her previous life as a General’s daughter she cannot even be thankful to have a husband that loves her and beautiful home, because to Head, it is only about social status and wealth. She finds herself to be above Desman, and it is apparent in the way she treats him and even alls down to him. She is an uncaring, emotionless woman who only cares about her and uses people for her own selfish gain.
One of the most appalling things about Head is that she openly admits to Judge Barack that she does not love her husband, and even makes a mockery of his work as a history specialist. HEAD: And specialists aren’t so much fun to travel with. Not for the long run anyway. BARACK: Not even the specialist one loves? HEAD: Such, don’t use that syrupy word (Ibsen 874) While this admittance is not really a shocking one at this point in the play, it is alarming that Head could Just openly say she does not love her husband to a man that he considers his friend.
She does not even put up an act, she openly and completely confesses she has no love for him and finds him so dull and boring. Those that might say that Head does deserve the sympathy of the audience might argue that she cannot help the way she is because it is how she was brought up as a wealthy General’s daughter. While this might make her seem worthy of any kind of understanding, it still does not excuse her cruel and demanding behavior towards others. Not ever person that grows up wealthy is manipulative and incapable of feeling normal human emotion.
Others might assert that Head has gone through a great deal of pain in her life, and having to adjust to middle class life only makes it harder for her to deal with. However, as Norse puts it, “The myth of the femme fatal: what might be described as Head’s “evil” manipulative behavior– everything from giving LГёVyborg a gun to hurting Aunt Julies feelings about her hat– has been far more provocative, and compelling, than her pain” (n. P. ). Therefore, Head’s past cannot be an excuse for her current behavior either.
People are always in control of how they let their past lives affect them, and it is ultimately up to oneself to decide how to treat other people, regardless of past circumstances. Having a dark past ultimately, does not, excuse one from taking advantage of others. Head’s last act, her suicide, comes as quite a shock to most readers at the end of pistols? She goes into the drawing room to play the piano, and all of a sudden a gunshot is heard, and the others rush in, only to see that Head has shot herself eight through the temple. One of the biggest questions posed by the play is, why did Head take her life?
Many could argue that she was simply too bored and unhappy and never saw herself having the control she desired over her life ever again. Others assert that it was her final act of her control, the only thing she had the complete power over: her life. As Lair states in his critical work, “Head’s own suicide, when it comes, is not an act of contrition but an act of will, the only gesture of freedom left to her. It is intended as a perverse transcendence, a form of negative creation” (n. . ). Head’s suicide was in fact a selfish last act of her own free will.
She was willing to go so far as to take her own life instead of let others attempt to control her. In her eyes, it was the only way. While suicide is always seen as “selfish” to most, Head’s act of suicide seems to be the most selfish of all, taking her own life only because she could not take her new lifestyle any longer. Temporary unhappiness is no reason to pull the trigger, but to people like Head, who can only live the life they want and nothing else, it was her perfect way out. Ibsen spins a tale quite like any other with Head Gabbler.