Social Issues in Hedda Gabler Essay

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Social Issues in Hedda Gabler

It has been suggested that Hedda Gabler is a drama about the individual psyche -- a mere character study. It has even been written that Hedda Gabler "presents no social theme" (Shipley 333). On the contrary, I have found social issues and themes abundant in this work.

The character of Hedda Gabler centers around society and social issues. Her high social rank is indicated from the beginning, as Miss Tesman says of Hedda, "General Gabler's daughter. What a life she had in the general's day!" (Ibsen 672). 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
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How much she's filled out on the trip?" (Ibsen 676). "I'm exactly as I was when I left," insists an annoyed Hedda (Ibsen 676). To Hedda, pregnancy is a despicable curse. It will make her unattractive, and she will no longer be the talk of the town. For a lady who has been forced to depend on her beauty to attract a suitable husband after the general's death, this is a crushing threat.

In Act II, Judge Brack gently suggests to Hedda that a child might relieve her from the mundane existence she has been enduring with Tesman. Calling motherhood her "most solemn responsibility," Judge Brack delicately hints that she will be having a child within the year. "Be quiet! You'll never see me like that!" she exclaims. "I have no talent for such things, Judge. I won't have responsibilities!" (Ibsen 687). Judge Brack has reminded Hedda of what she already knew -- the pregnancy. Her fear of becoming undesirable resurfaces, and she explodes in anger and denial.

Even in death, Hedda cherishes beauty. In discussing the planned suicide with Eilert, she instructs him, "Eilert Lovborg -- listen to me. Couldn't you arrange that -- that it's done beautifully?" (Ibsen 703). She then reminds him twice more in the following lines to take his life beautifully. Still, upon his death he is shot in the stomach at a brothel, not at all as beautifully as Hedda had intended. In the final lines of the play, Hedda finally gets the beautiful ending she romanticizes. She takes her own

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