Hedda Gabler By Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler is not truly indicative of his vast body of work:
the protagonist is female and the play is a character study. Oddly enough,
though, Hedda does not evolve or progress throughout the entirety of the work.

Rather, she remains a cold and manipulative woman. When this fact is realized,
the only task is discovering why Hedda continues as a flat character who is
restrained from gaining the status of a hero. Truthfully, there are many
variables that shape Hedda’s life. Nonetheless, two factors in particular
stand out—her father, General Gabler, and the repressive, masculine society of
the era. Although Ibsen does not directly address these issues, he succeeds in
conveying their critical significance. A common underlying theme in Ibsen’s
work is the linking of death and music. And, as one might have deduced, this
premise is employed in Hedda Gabler. Moreover, the ever-present piano, belonging
to the late General Gabler, symbolizes Hedda’s past freedom, prior to marrying

George Tesman, as the "General’s daughter." A more obvious example of

General Gabler’s influence over Hedda is the large portrait of him that
dominates the "inner" room. In fact, as Ibsen initially describes the single
set, he momentarily focuses on the presence of the portrait of the "handsome,
elderly man in a General’s uniform" (Ibsen Act 1). With this description,
the reader is made aware of the Rhoades 2 General’s presence, even after his
death. Arguably, the most significant influence the General has over Hedda is
the fact that Hedda is unable to rid herself of her "Hedda Gabler" identity.

It is extremely odd to be known by a name that is, in effect, a product of the
past, as Hedda has recently become "Hedda Tesman." Throughout the play,

Hedda is referred to as "Hedda Gabler," or , more simply, "General

Gabler’s daughter." This fact is also indicative of the kind of"facelessness" that women of the era were often subject to. Yet another
aspect of the General’s rearing of Hedda is her unusual fascination with his
pistols. This fascination is one of the first given clues that Hedda was raised
as a boy would have been. The mere possibility of Hedda being raised as a male
is sufficient evidence to explain her underlying disdain at being a
woman—unable to express herself as a man would. Instead, Hedda simply"contents herself with negative behavior instead of constructive action" (Linnea

91). Since she cannot express herself outright, she amuses herself by
manipulating others. The most compelling episode of Hedda’s perfected brand of
manipulation is the role she plays in the death of Eilert Lovborg, a former
love. Despite the fact that Eilert is the only person who can evoke true passion
in her, Hedda feels the need to destroy him, purely for the purpose of

"[having] the power to mould a human destiny" (Ibsen 2). Since she is unable
to directly control anyone or anything, Hedda chooses to rebel against the
society that shapes her and obliterate one of its future leaders. Needless to
say, the Victorian era of literature and society did not offer a profusion of
opportunities for young women. This fact is made abundantly clear in Hedda

Gabler. Despite the fact that society stifles Hedda, it is not the only factor

Rhoades 3 that restrains her from gaining independence, as well as expressing
herself. In reality, Hedda’s own cowardice generously contributes to her
inescapable end. But, of course, the root of her cowardice is her former life
involving her father, General Gabler. Even though Hedda takes pleasure in
creating scandal, however, she is deathly frightened of being associated with
it. One such incidence involves Thea Elvsted, Hedda’s long- forgotten
schoolmate, explaining to Hedda her current, scandalous situation concerning

Eilert Lovborg, who is Thea’s stepchildren’s tutor. Specifically, Thea is
rebelling against the conventions of society and pursuing Lovborg. Hedda,
constantly aware of scandal, responds in a predictable manner: "But what do
you think people will say of you, Thea?" (1). This scene is the first of many
that reveals Hedda’s inability to disregard society and scandal and live the
life she has never dared to live. Indeed, the sole reason that Hedda marries

George Tesman is due to the fact that he is the only one of her suitors that
expresses an interest in marriage. Once again, Hedda’s fear of society’s
ideals for women forces her to compromise her thoughts and desires, thereby
causing her to feel jealous and trapped. "It [Hedda’s mind] has merely gone
round and round the cage she has built for herself, looking for a way to
escape" (Ellis-Fermor 43).