According to John T. Shipley, Hedda Gabler "…presents no social theme" (333). He asserts this argument with evidence that the themes that are presented in the play are of no importance with relevance to the time period it was written. Although John R. Shipley might have a prevalent argument, the social topics that are presented in Hedda Gabler are timeless and are present even in today’s world as they were long before the time of Hedda Gabler. Therefore, Mr. John T. Shipley is mistaken when stating that there is a lack of social themes in Hedda Gabler because issues such as “bourgeoisie” versus aristocracy, social class, public image, scandal, and gender sexuality flood the entire plot of the play.
The character of Hedda Gabler centers on society and social issues. Her high social rank is indicated from the beginning as Miss Tesman speaks of Hedda riding with her father in the long black skirt and the feather in her hair (Wingard 1167). Upon Hedda's first appearance, she makes many snobbish remarks. First, she turns up her nose at George's special handmade slippers. Later, she insults Aunt Julie's new hat, pretending to mistake it for the maid's. Hedda seems to despise everything about George Tesman and his “bourgeoisie” life. She demands much more class than he has been able to provide her. After all, she was the beautiful and charming daughter of General Gabler and deserved nothing but the finest.
As the character of Hedda Gabler develops, the reader learns that she has only married George Tesman for one selfish reason; Hedda’s father's passing left her no significant financial wealth, nothing but a respectable legacy. She tells Judge Brack of her decision to marry Tesman: "I really had danced m...
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...roughout the play she blows off Tesman and his middle class lifestyles, holding on to the honorable past with which her father provided her. Taking into consideration the suggestions of the social issues overflowing from Hedda Gabler above, it can not be denied that the very theme of Hedda Gabler centers on social issues. Jan Setterquist says it best, "Hedda Gabler is... indirectly a social parable" (166).
- Ibsen, Henrik Hedda Gabler. 1890. Ed. Joel Wingard Literature: Reading and Responding
to Fiction, Drama, and the Essay. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1996.
- Setterquist, Jan. Ibsen and the Beginnings of Anglo-Irish Drama. New York: Gordian
Press, 1974. 46 - 49, 58 - 59, 82 - 93, 154 - 166.
- Shipley, Joseph T. The Crown Guide to the World's Great Plays. New York: Crown
Publishers, Inc., 1984. 332 - 333.
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