Hedda inherited her pistols from her father, the great General Gabler, and her intimacy with them suggests the extent to which Hedda is so much more her father’s daughter than her husband’s wife. In this vein, we might say that the pistols are Hedda’s final material connection to her glorious aristocratic past—a lifestyle which is now unsustainable because of the state of Jörgen’s finances. The pistols mean much more than this to Hedda, however: they are weapons for warfare, and phallic artifacts from a man’s world which is inaccessible to women like Hedda in a patriarchal society. Hedda feels empowered and free when she holds these instruments of power and domination, as when she fires in Judge Brack’s direction when he comes through the garden. Moreover, Hedda herself is a loaded gun, so to speak, in waiting as long as she does to unleash her powers for destruction, and the pistols underscore this characterization. In the end, however, the pistols only empower Hedda in effecting her own self-destruction.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol General Gabler’s Pistols appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...one thing to pass the time with. Tesman ecstatically asks what it is. General Gabler’s pistols, Hedda responds coldly, and exits. Tesman rushes to the doorway and, shouting, begs her not... (full context)
...approaching the Tesmans’ villa from the back, through the garden. She greets him, raises her pistol, takes aim, and playfully announces that she is going to shoot him. Judge Brack shouts... (full context)
...become a reality. Lövborg reminds her that she threatened to shoot him with her father’s pistols then—she didn’t do so only because she was afraid of a scandal. “You’re a coward,”... (full context)
...around through the back way. Hedda reminds him that she conducts target practice with her pistols in the back, but Brack retorts, laughing, that nobody would shoot their own tame rooster.... (full context)
...then heard from the inner room. Everyone jumps to their feet—Hedda is playing with those pistols again, says Tesman. He pulls the curtain aside and runs in, followed by Thea. They... (full context)