Hedda Gabler

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript Symbol Icon

While General Gabler’s pistols and alcohol are destructive temptations launched from characters’ pasts into their presents, Lövborg and Thea Elvsted’s manuscript symbolizes creation, the redemption of the past, and hope for the future (the manuscript itself, after all, takes the future for its subject matter). Mrs. Elvsted inspired Lövborg in writing the manuscript, in what is virtually the only creative relationship between two people in the play. The manuscript itself promises to redeem Lövborg of his past disgrace, as well as to establish him with a bright reputation in the future. So important is the manuscript to Lövborg and Thea that they go so far as to consider it to be their very own child. However, Lövborg’s lack of self-control, coupled with Hedda’s destructive nature, lead to the loss and fiery death of this child. (Compare this with the fact that Hedda, who is pregnant from the beginning of the play, dreads the paltriness and boredom promised by motherhood, and takes her unborn child to death with her when she commits suicide.) Perhaps Mrs. Elvsted will inspire Jörgen to successfully reconstruct the Lövborg’s manuscript—this is the only prospect of creative redemption that the play leaves us with when the curtain falls.

Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript Quotes in Hedda Gabler

The Hedda Gabler quotes below all refer to the symbol of Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power and Influence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of Hedda Gabler published in 2008.
Act 3 Quotes

I don’t want to look at sickness and death. I must be free of everything that’s ugly.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker)
Related Symbols: Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Lovborg failed to control himself and went on a drinking spree, during which he lost his precious manuscript. Tesman found the manuscript in a gutter, and is now discussing the night with Hedda. He resolves to return the manuscript to Lovborg immediately. A letter then arrives from Miss Tesman, telling Tesman that his Aunt Rina is about to die—and this distracts him from the question of the manuscript. Here, Tesman has just asked Hedda to come with him to Aunt Rina's deathbed, and Hedda responds that she does not "want to look at sickness and death."

Her response illuminates her cruelty as well as her disdain for social norms. Hedda frames going to a family member's deathbed as a matter of "want," when most people, Tesman included, would consider it a necessary, humane duty. Hedda, however, is disgusted not only by the ugliness of death but by its commonness. Aunt Rina's death, particularly, which is caused by a long illness, is pathetic and disturbing to Hedda in its lack of agency. A woman who is obsessed with a "beautiful death" will not go and sit by a sick bed. 

In terms of the plot, Hedda's refusal to go with Tesman then leaves her alone with Lovborg's cherished manuscript. 

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Hedda Gabler quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

I want you to know, Lövborg, what you’ve done to the book…. For the rest of my life it’ll be for me as though you killed a little child.

Related Characters: Mrs. Thea Elvsted (speaker)
Related Symbols: Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

After Judge Brack leaves, Lovborg bursts into the Tesman's sitting room and speaks to Hedda and Mrs. Elvsted. He omits the details of his drunken debauchery and says only that Mrs. Elvsted is no longer of use to him, and that he has torn up his precious manuscript and thrown the pieces into the fjord (an inlet of sea bordered by cliffs). Mrs. Elvsted is horrified. Lovborg tells this lie to give the impression of self-control and artistic passion—tearing up the manuscript is much more impressive than the truth, which is that he lost it in a drunken stupor. Lovborg tries to make the scene tragic, but in reality it is farcical.

Here, Mrs. Elvsted tells Lovborg how terribly he has wounded her, referring to his act of tearing up the manuscript as the murder of a child—their child. She tells him that this is a permanent wound. She will resent him for "the rest of [her] life." 

Before this point, Mrs. Elvsted's feelings for Lovborg have been veiled by propriety, but in this moment she reveals how close the two of them were. By calling the manuscript they created together a child, she implies that their relationship was as intimate as husband and wife. The life of the manuscript is over, and so too is Mrs. Elvsted's. In her mind, there is nothing to live for without Lovborg's manuscript. 

Hedda: And what are you going to do, then?

Lövborg: Nothing. Just put an end to it all. The sooner the better.

Hedda: Ejlert Lövborg…listen to me…. Couldn’t you let it happen… beautifully?

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg (speaker)
Related Symbols: General Gabler’s Pistols, Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

After Mrs. Elvsted leaves in tears, Lovborg confesses to Hedda that he has in fact lost the manuscript. Here, Hedda asks him what he will do now, and Lovborg replies that he will "put an end to it" by killing himself. Hedda, whose first plan to influence Lovborg's life has failed, encourages him towards a new path—a beautiful death. She sees suicide as the ultimate sign of control over one's life, and since Lovborg could not control his drinking or the fate of his manuscript, he must make his last action purposeful and beautiful.  

Of course, this is Hedda's last chance to influence Lovborg's destiny, and she knows it. She tells him never to return to the Tesman villa, and gives him one of General Gabler's pistols before he goes, intending for it to be the instrument of his suicide. The pistol, a symbol of control and violence, is an extension of Hedda's influence. It is also a symbol for their youthful time together, where they use to meet in General Gabler's home. For all of its symbolic importance, however, the gift is poorly thought out, as it will directly link Hedda to Lovborg's death when he kills himself with it. 

Now I’m burning your child, Thea! With your curly hair! Your child and Ejlert Lövborg’s. I’m burning…burning your child.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Ejlert Lövborg, Mrs. Thea Elvsted
Related Symbols: Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript, Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:

After Lovborg leaves, Hedda feeds his manuscript into the fire and murmurs these lines to herself. She addresses her lines to Mrs. Elvsted (and again refers to her famously beautiful hair), revealing the part that jealousy plays in this action. By referring to the manuscript as their child, Hedda confirms Mrs. Elvsted's influence and intimacy with Lovborg. The fact that Mrs. Elvsted influenced Lovborg productively (as Hedda has not been able to) enrages Hedda, and she is compelled to destroy the product of their partnership. 

Her investment in Lovborg's beautiful death also motivates her to burn the manuscript. Without the manuscript, Lovborg has nothing to live for, and Hedda wants to ensure that neither he nor anyone else has a way of discovering it. 

Finally, this moment is one of Hedda's most desperate acts of control. She destroys the manuscript for many reasons, of course, but perhaps the primary reason is a yearning to destroy as a means of control. Since she cannot create anything beautiful, she must content herself with destroying something precious. 

Get the entire Hedda Gabler LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hedda gabler.pdf.medium

Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript Symbol Timeline in Hedda Gabler

The timeline below shows where the symbol Lövborg and Thea’s Manuscript appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
Lövborg pulls out a packet from his coat pocket: it is his new manuscript. He tells Tesman that he should read this when it comes out, because it’s a... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Lövborg hopes to read a bit from his new manuscript to Tesman, but Tesman doesn’t know if he can manage that. Judge Brack explains: he’s... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
...too is going to the drinking party, if only to read to Tesman from his manuscript. He also promises to pick Thea up from the Tesmans’ at ten o’clock that night.... (full context)
Act 3
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...be at Judge Brack’s. There, she fantasizes, Ejlert Lövborg is even now reading from his manuscript. (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...that he didn’t come home earlier—and he says that Lövborg read to him from his manuscript. It will be one of the most remarkable books ever written, Tesman announces. He also... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...behind the others. While he was hurrying to catch up, he found Lövborg’s precious, irreplaceable manuscript in a gutter of all places. Tesman picked it up and has it with him... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
...morning coffee—or night coffee, as the case may be. Now Tesman resolves to return Lövborg’s manuscript to him as soon as possible. Please don’t, asks Hedda—she wants to read it first.... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
...that Judge Brack is outside. Hedda orders her to admit him. Hedda the snatches Lövborg’s manuscript from the stool Tesman has laid it on. She promises to care for it, and... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...madam herself or one of the prostitutes in her employ of robbing him of his manuscript. He started a fight, which devolved into a large brawl, involving ladies and gentlemen both.... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
Hedda goes to the bookshelf and is about to look at Lövborg’s manuscript when she hears an altercation in the hall. Despite Berte’s best efforts, a confused and... (full context)
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...her husband, but Thea refuses to do so—she wants to be with Lövborg when his manuscript is published. (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
Lövborg then turns to the subject of the manuscript, which was his and Thea’s brainchild together. It will never be published because, he lies,... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...confess—under the condition that Hedda not tell Thea, ever—that he did not tear up his manuscript. In truth, he lost this metaphorical child. (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
Alone, Hedda retrieves Lövborg’s manuscript, looks at some of the pages, and then sits down with it by the stove.... (full context)
Act 4
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...Aunt Rina’s death but also about Lövborg, to whom he has yet to return the manuscript. Tesman also mentions having met Thea Elvsted while out—did you tell her about the manuscript,... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...utterly wicked? With an almost imperceptible smile, Hedda tells her husband that she put the manuscript in the fire for his sake, because he was so envious of Lövborg’s work, and... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Tesman becomes uneasy and thoughtful again when he remembers Lövborg’s manuscript. Just then Thea Elvsted enters. She speaks in agitation: she fears that Lövborg may have... (full context)
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...He must have been, Thea insists, just like he was when he tore up his manuscript. (full context)
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
The mention of the manuscript agitates Tesman’s sense of guilt. He drifts about the stage, upset that his old friend... (full context)
Provincialism and Patriarchy Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...attempting to recover “a child that had been lost.” Brack assumed this to mean his manuscript, but then learned that Lövborg himself tore it up, so he takes it to mean... (full context)