Social Issues in Hedda Gabler Essay
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 perturbed and embarrassed when George says to Aunt Julie, ;But have you noticed how plump and buxom she’s grown? How much she’s filled out on the trip?; (Ibsen 676). ;I’m exactly as I was when I left," insists an annoyed Hedda (Ibsen 676).
To Hedda, pregnancy is a despicable curse. It will make her unattractive, and she will no longer be the talk of the town. For a lady who has been forced to depend on her beauty to attract a suitable husband after the general’s death, this is a crushing threat.
In Act II, Judge Brack gently suggests to Hedda that a child might relieve her from the mundane existence she has been enduring with Tesman. Calling motherhood her ;most solemn responsibility,; Judge Brack delicately hints that she will be having a child within the year. ;Be quiet! You’ll never see me like that!" she exclaims.
"I have no talent for such things, Judge. I won’t have responsibilities!; (Ibsen 687). Judge Brack has reminded Hedda of what she already knew — the pregnancy. Her fear of becoming undesirable resurfaces, and she explodes in anger and denial.
Even in death, Hedda cherishes beauty. In discussing the planned suicide with Eilert, she instructs him, ;Eilert Lovborg — listen to me.
Couldn’t you arrange that — that it’s done beautifully?" (Ibsen 703). She then reminds him twice more in the following lines to take his life beautifully. Still, upon his death he is shot in the stomach at a brothel, not at all as beautifully as Hedda had intended. In the final lines of the play, Hedda finally gets the beautiful ending she romanticizes. She takes her own life, shooting herself in the temple as she lies stretched out on the .