Hedda Gabler

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hedda Gabler, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Every character in Hedda Gabler seeks power and influence of some kind. As one critic describes it, the play “is most convincingly read as the record of a series of personal campaigns for control and domination: over oneself, over others, and over one’s world.” Most of the power struggles are petty: Jörgen Tesman wants to know more than anyone else about medieval domestic crafts, of all things, so that he might gain the professional and…

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Despite being well-educated and well-traveled, Hedda Gabler lives in a very small, small-minded world—that is, a provincial world. The streets she rode down as a young woman, accompanied by her father General Gabler, are the same streets she rides down now as a married woman. One of her early admirers, the academic Jörgen Tesman, is now her husband, a man who during the couple’s honeymoon abroad revealingly neglects the cultural riches of Italy…

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Throughout his career, Ibsen investigated the interplay between modern society and the heroic individual, and in his plays he generally privileges the latter. The ordinary members of society whom he represents tend to be materialistic, and uncommitted to anything other than maintaining the status quo and advancing their petty self-interests. Jörgen Tesman, amiable though he may be, is just such a person: he mostly concerns himself with bourgeois comforts and conventions, and his academic…

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Lӧvborg accuses Hedda of fearing scandal because she is a coward, and Hedda concedes that she is. But it is perhaps her marriage to the mediocre Tesman that represents the far greater concession to her cowardice. Hedda chose Tesman for his socioeconomic solidity and respectability, and also because her own “marriageability” was ebbing. She does not love him—she finds the very word “love” to be “glutinous” and “sickening”—nor is she even amused by him. It…

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Modern life, at least to Hedda’s sensitive mind, is full of routine ugliness. Because nothing is sacred, people become sentimental about personal trifles, as Tesman is about the slippers his Aunt Rina embroidered for him and which his Aunt Julle brings for him as a gift. “Oh, you can’t imagine how many memories they have for me,” Tesman exclaims. “But not for me, particularly,” Hedda responds. Then there is the ugliness of being married…

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