Hedda Gabler

Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove Symbol Analysis

Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove Symbol Icon

In the Tesmans’ drawing room is a dark porcelain stove which Ibsen invites us to pay attention to throughout the play. Hedda goes toward it when Tesman tries to show her his cherished old slippers, Hedda forces Mrs. Elvsted to sit next to it, and she sits next to it on several occasions herself. The fire in the stove also almost dies in Act III, only for Hedda to revive it. We learn that the stove is onstage to serve a treacherous purpose only at the end of Act III, when Hedda kneels beside it and feeds into its fire Ejlert Lövborg’s precious, irreplaceable manuscript. The seeming innocuousness of the stove parallels Hedda’s own seeming harmlessness—but of course this is an illusion of which we are disabused over the course of the play. Just as the stove conceals the fire in its belly, so too does Hedda conceal within her heart a fantastic, hateful violence. The stove and its fire, then, symbolize destruction—and how domestication can conceal but not contain destruction’s powers. It should also be pointed out that when Hedda destroys Lövborg and Thea’s manuscript, she refers to it as their “child.” The image Ibsen is evoking here is that of child sacrifice, specifically the ancient pagan practice of making children go into a furnace where they would be burned to death in honor of the god Moloch. The peoples who practiced this form of sacrifice must have been despairing indeed, to think that their god was so cruel as to require this act of them—and Hedda, it would seem, is similarly despairing.

Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove Quotes in Hedda Gabler

The Hedda Gabler quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove. 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 1 Quotes

Hedda: Frightened? Of me?

Mrs. Elvsted: Oh, dreadfully frightened. When we met on the steps you used to pull my hair.

Hedda: No, did I really?

Mrs. Elvsted: Yes, and once you said you were going to burn it off.

Related Characters: Hedda Gabler (speaker), Mrs. Thea Elvsted (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu

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Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove Symbol Timeline in Hedda Gabler

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fire and the Tesmans’ Stove appears in Hedda Gabler. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Power and Influence Theme Icon
...alone. Mrs. Elvsted doesn’t understand. Hedda forces her to sit in an armchair by the stove, while she herself sits on one of the stools. Anxiously Mrs. Elvsted looks at her... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...she was frightened of Hedda, who used to pull her hair, and once threatened to burn it off. (full context)
Act 2
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...Thea is so rich—then she grips Thea in her arms and says, “I think I’ll burn your hair off after all.” (full context)
Act 3
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...3 opens on the Tesmans’ drawing room. It is early the next morning, and the fire in the stove has almost burnt itself out. Thea Elvsted is reclining in an armchair,... (full context)
Modern Society v. the Individual Theme Icon
...get drunk and stay out all night. She offers to put more kindling on the fire, but Thea says that this isn’t necessary. Berte exits. (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
...Berte to come. Berte enters, and Hedda instructs her to put more wood on the fire. Before she can do so, Berte hears someone arrive at the front door. Hedda tells... (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Beauty, Tragedy, and Farce Theme Icon
...manuscript, looks at some of the pages, and then sits down with it by the stove. After a while she opens the stove door and begins feeding pages into the fire.... (full context)
Act 4
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...At this point, Hedda reveals to her husband that she cast the manuscript into the fire. (full context)
Power and Influence Theme Icon
Marriage, Love, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...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 because she didn’t... (full context)