It has been suggested that Hedda Gabler is a drama about the individual psyche -- a mere character study. It has even been written that Hedda Gabler "presents no social theme" (Shipley 333). On the contrary, I have found social issues and themes abundant in this work.
The character of Hedda Gabler centers around society and social issues. Her high social rank is indicated from the beginning, as Miss Tesman says of Hedda, "General Gabler's daughter. What a life she had in the general's day!" (Ibsen 672). 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 abhor everything about George Tesman and his bourgeoisie existence. She demands much more class than he has been able to provide her, for she was the beautiful, 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 because her father's passing away left her no significant financial resources, nothing but a respectable heritage. She tells Brack of her decision to marry Tesman: "I really had danced myself out, Judge. My time was up. ... And George Tesman -- he is after all a thoroughly acceptable choice. ... There's every chance that in time he could still make a name for himself. ...It was certainly more than my other admirers were willing to do for me, Judge." (Ibsen 684).
Hedda needed someone to support her financially, and George Tesman was the only decent man to propose to her. She was forced to cross beneath her social class and marry this commoner in the hopes that he would make a name for himself as a professor. As for love everlasting, Hedda disgustedly comments to Judge Brack, "Ugh -- don't use that syrupy word!" Rather than having become a happy newlywed who has found true love, "Hedda is trapped in a marriage of convenience" (Shipley 445).
Hedda was raised a lady of the upper class, and as such she regards her beauty with high esteem. This is, in part, the reason she vehemently denies the pregnancy for so long. A pregnancy will force her to gain weight and lose her lovely womanly figure. Hedda has grown accustomed to her many admirers; therefore, Hedda is ...
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Lastly, the tile itself represents the social theme of the drama. In using the name Hedda Gabler, despite her marriage to George Tesman, Ibsen has conveyed to the reader the importance of social class. Hedda prefers to identify herself as the daughter of General Gabler, not the wife of George Tesman. Throughout the play she rejects Tesman and his middle class lifestyles, clinging to the honorable past with which her father provided her. This identity as the daughter of the noble General Gabler is strongly implied in the title, Hedda Gabler.
In considering the many implications of the social issues as explained above, it can not be denied that the very theme of Hedda Gabler centers on social issues. "Hedda Gabler is ...indirectly a social parable" (Setterquist 166).
1. Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabler. The Bedford Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1996. 672-709.
2. Setterquist, Jan. Ibsen and the Beginnings of Anglo-Irish Drama. New York: Gordian Press, 1974. 46 - 49, 58 - 59, 82 - 93, 154 - 166.
3. Shipley, Joseph T. The Crown Guide to the World's Great Plays. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1984. 332 - 333.
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