Orlando Gibbs Hoederer - A Character Analysis

Fairly early on in the play, we get the impression that most of the people in the Party are very strongly opposed to and (possibly) thoroughly dislike Hoederer because of his plans to essentially form an alliance with the Conservative side of the Illyrian government, trying to make negotiations with Karsky and the Prince Regent. In the second tableau, Louis, when explaining to Hugo, unaware of the hypocrisy within the Party (they profess to treat everyone equally, but reject Hugo simply because he is bourgois), that they plan to kill Hoederer, tells Hugo a little bit about these arrangements; 'il est autorisé à engager les pourpalers. Quand il reviendra avec des offres précises, il emportera le morceau.'. One can imagine the tone in which Louis says these things, with a certain displeased and angry subtext, leading us to believe that Hoederer is a harsh and somewhat horrible character (as he is apparently "betraying" the Party). Also, the way in which Sartre withholds Hoederer's verbal prescence in the play until almost halfway through the play not only adds to the mystery of this man but also leaves our interpretation of this man completely reliant on the opinions of others for evidence of character. We all automatically have preconceptions of him - disliked purely because of what those opposed to him (e.g. Louis) have said (and indeed done - he wants to kill Hoederer using Hugo).

However, immediately after Hoederer meets Hugo for the very first time, the audience has a different opinion of him – he is not the evil and malevolent fiend others have described him to be. When Slick and George are attacking Hugo for essentially his bourgeois heritage, saying that ‘On est peut-être du même parti mais on n’y est pas pour les mêmes raisons’, to which Hoederer says ‘On y entre toujours pour la même raison’ and goes on to defend Hugo, saying he has every right to be involved in the Party regardless of his background. This all ties in with the exitentialism personified in Hoederer – who is saying and says later on that the actions of a man define his character, not where he comes from or by whom he was brought up. Hugo has made the choice to join the Party and abandon his past comfortable, upper-middle class surroundings. It is the choice that is important here, according to Hoederer, not the life behind it. Both of them believe that everyone should have the right to do whatever they so desire. As ‘un intellectuel’, Hugo and Hoederer know that Hugo would not be a desperately good assassin, but that does not mean he does not have the right to. Thus both of them are symbolic of existentialism in some respects.

Hoederer does not appear to be like the stereotypical Communist leader that we have seen in the history of Commumnism; he is not cold, heartless and without any compassion, he has a sense of forgiving and understanding about him, and as we see later on in the play, a genuine wanting to help Hugo get through these tough times. Later on in the play, in the fourth tableau, Hoederer begins the negotiations with Karsky and the Prince. His diplomatic and somewhat pragmatic side shine through in this section, his hunger for this alliance evident. The fact that even though Hoederer knows that he will be opposed and hated by undertaking this, he does not stop to reconsider for one minute. This shows his determination and discipline to "keep going". When Hoederer eventually finds out that Hugo has been sent to kill him on Louis' orders, he does not panic nor react violently, he calmly offers the opportunity to Hugo for Hoederer to help him sort out his emotions and help him on the cross between "boyhood to manhood", as Hugo hasn't quite made this transition just yet. This again outline how kind and compassionate Hoederer has turned out to be, ironically completely unlike the other people in the hierarchy of the party who have made Hoederer out to be what they despise but interestingly what they are really like. Throughout Tableau V, Hugo and Hoederer have conversations primarily centered around politics and the Party, and why Hoederer is trying to make these negotiations with the Prince and Karsky. Also, towards the end of this tableau, Hoederer's stress regarding the burden he has to bear starts to become clear, saying that, 'On ne peut pas travailler tout le temps' ('One cannot work all the time'), and 'Je n'avais pas sommeil' ( 'I have not been having sleep'). This not only gives him a sense of humanity but also encourages the audience to feel slightly more sympathetic towards him; he is not the beastly character described at the beginning of the play. However, his irritable side starts to shine through also in the fifth tableau, 'Chut. Demain! Demains' ('Hush. Tomorrow! Tomorrow!'). Not only the word 'Chut' but also the exclamation after each 'Demain' signifies that Hoederer is under pressure of some sort and is obviously tetchy and irritable.

In the fifth tableau, there is a passage which is very interesting because it gives us a sense of what the metaphor of the play ('Les Mains Sales') is; '“Comme tu tiens à ta pureté, mon petit gars! Comme tu as peur de te salir les mains. Eh bien reste pur! A qui cela servira-t-il et pourquoi viens-tu parmi nous? Vous autres les intellectuels, les anarchistes bourgeoises, vous en tirez prétexte pour ne rien faire. Moi j’ai les mains sales. Jusqu’aux coudes. Je les ai plonges dans la merde et dans le sang"'. Hoederer's sense of determination, discipline and, to an extent, desire to get what he wants is shown in this passage. Hoederer has obviously killed before ('sang' - 'blood') and has his 'coudes' ('elbows') deep in 'merde' and 'sang'. The use of the word 'merde' is very appropriate here in the sense of literally making his hands filthy with the blood of those he has killed. All the experiences Hoederer has gone through have had an effect on the way in which he manages the Party - even though his "methods" of obtaining the power are looked down upon by "purer" members of the Party, he will still strive to get it. The fact that his experiences govern his politics also relates back to the recurring theme of existentialism in the play - his actions have defined the way he lives his life.


Meets with a 10 so far on the rating scale- JH