Themes In Hedda Gabler Essay

1742 words - 7 pages

Hedda Gabler

According to John T. Shipley, Hedda Gabler "…presents no social theme" (333). He asserts this argument with evidence that the themes that are presented in the play are of no importance with relevance to the time period it was written. Although John R. Shipley might have a prevalent argument, the social topics that are presented in Hedda Gabler are timeless and are present even in today’s world as they were long before the time of Hedda Gabler. Therefore, Mr. John T. Shipley is mistaken when stating that there is a lack of social themes in Hedda Gabler because issues such as “bourgeoisie” versus aristocracy, social class, public image, scandal, and gender sexuality flood the entire plot of the play.

The character of Hedda Gabler centers on society and social issues. Her high social rank is indicated from the beginning as Miss Tesman speaks of Hedda riding with her father in the long black skirt and the feather in her hair (Wingard 1167). 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 despise everything about George Tesman and his “bourgeoisie” life. She demands much more class than he has been able to provide her. After all, she was the beautiful and 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 for one selfish reason; Hedda’s father's passing left her no significant financial wealth, nothing but a respectable legacy. She tells Judge 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." (Wingard1185).

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, 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 strongly denies the pregnancy for so long. A pregnancy will force her to gain weight and lose her womanly figure. Hedda has grown accustomed to her many admirers, therefore, Hedda is agitated 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?" (Wingard...

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