A Literary Analysis of Hedda Gabler Hedda Gabler is a text in which jealousy and envy drive a woman to manipulate and attempt to control everyone in her life. The protagonist, Hedda, shows her jealousy in her interactions with the other characters in the play, particularly with Eilert Loveborg and Thea Elvsted. Because Hedda is unable to get what she wants out of life because of her gender and during the time of the play, her age, she resorts to bringing everyone else down around her. Hedda lets her jealousy get the best of her and because of this she hurts many of the people around her as well as ultimately hurting herself.
When the play was written, Hedda, being a woman, did not have many rights and had to do what was expected of a woman during that time period. She was afraid of scandal and envied those who were not. Her envy and jealousy at those who were free to be in control of their own lives was the driving force behind Hedda’s manipulative behavior and attempts to destroy the lives of others. She did the horrible things that she did to make herself feel as though she had some power and some control. It was her way of trying to ease the jealousy she felt towards others.
She ruined their lives, so she would have nothing to be jealous of. Hedda Gabler is a complex piece of literature in which Henrik Ibsen is able to portray a woman who, because she has suffered from the injustices of the time, let her emotions get carried away and because of this was driven to attempt to put some equality into her own life by any means possible. Throughout the text of Hedda Gabler there are many instances that show Hedda’s envious nature. By examining these passages, one will find that the appalling things that she does are driven from her desire to have power and be in control.
They also show how injustice can sometimes cause people to be driven to do drastic things to gain some equality into their lives. One of the first instances of Hedda’s jealousy in the play is when Mrs. Elvsted (Thea) is first introduced. This occurs on page 665. Here Thea shares that Hedda used to pull Thea’s hair when they were in school and that Hedda threatened to burn it off. Hedda dismisses this accusation although she is fully aware that she had done this when the two were young. This example shows that from a young age Hedda let her jealousy get the best of her.
She pulled and threatened to burn Thea’s hair because she was jealous of it. In Hedda’s mind, if she could not have pretty hair, then Thea should not have it either. She did what she did to Thea to make herself feel better about the situation and to make Thea scared of her, therefore giving her a feeling of being in control. Another instance of Hedda’s jealousy occurs on page 685. In this part, Hedda, Thea, and Eilert are all at Hedda’s house together. While they are here, Hedda makes sure to sit in between Thea and Eilert even though she is completely aware that the two are an item.
She does this because Eilert is the only man she ever loved and she is jealous that he is now with Thea. Hedda says, “No you don’t, little Thea, not there. Come right over here next to me. I want to be in the middle between you. ,” which again shows that she likes to have control over what happens around her. Hedda tells everyone where to sit in an attempt to have some form of power in her life. Throughout the whole play, the reader can see that Hedda is jealous of Thea’s courage. Thea had the strength to leave her husband, and essentially everything she owned behind.
Though this caused a scandal for her, Thea was unafraid and chose to leave and be with Eilert anyway. Hedda knows that she could never do this although she wishes that she could. She does not love her husband, George, and does not want to have his child. However as Judge Brack informs the reader, Hedda is afraid of scandal. She is afraid of what would be said about her and how people would view her if she were to do something like Thea had done. Hedda envies the fact that Thea did have the courage to do this.
Because of all Hedda’s jealousy against Thea she does something that will ultimately crush Thea, giving Hedda, in her mind, complete power over Thea and over Eilert. In the next example of Hedda’s jealousy, one can see how she is willing to go to extremes to hurt people and how malicious she can be. At the end of Act III, on page 699, Hedda burns the manuscript that Eilert and Thea worked so hard on. It was so precious to them that it could be considered their child. As she is burning it, Hedda says, “Now, I’m burning your child
Thea-You with your curly hair. Your child and Eilert Loveborg’s. Now I’m burning-burning the child. ” By saying this Hedda sums up many of the reasons why she is jealous of Thea. She mentions Thea’s hair, proving that even though she dismissed it earlier in the play, she did remember being jealous of Thea’s hair and still is. She is jealous of Thea because Thea is with Eilert who is the only man that Hedda has ever loved and wanted to be with. She is jealous that they were able to have a “child” together because she wishes it could have been her.
In this one quote, Hedda shows her true emotions. She burns the manuscript as a way to hurt Thea and Eilert because she is jealous of them. She is malicious and jealous and this is the only way she knows how to react. Hedda tries to say that she burns the manuscript for George. George had that morning said that he envied Eilert’s manuscript and Hedda tells him that she burned it so that no one would overshadow George. When Hedda says this she is using a metaphor to show her true feelings. She did not burn the manuscript for George’s sake, but for her own.
She envied Eilert and Thea and burned the manuscript so that Thea would not overshadow her and that Eilert would not overshadow her husband, who is associated with her. Hedda’s jealousy also led her to be extremely manipulative throughout the play. An example of her taking this to the extreme is when she convinces Eilert to shoot himself. She knows that Eilert is crushed and depressed over the thought that his manuscript is gone and that he is vulnerable. So to make herself feel powerful she manipulates Eilert into thinking that killing himself, specifically shooting himself in the temple, would be a “beautiful” way to die.
Instead of being the friend that he needed, Hedda manipulated him to do the thing that she wished she could do, but was too afraid to do. She even gave him the gun to carry out his suicide with. Hedda was jealous that Eilert had this opportunity but found power in the fact that she was able to manipulate him into doing it. When Hedda finds out, on page 704, that Eilert did not die beautifully, but accidentally she becomes extremely disappointed. She also becomes scared because Judge Brack knew that Hedda had given Eilert the pistol and now hreatened a scandal on her, which he knows she is afraid of. Hedda is now completely out of control which she cannot stand to be so she decides to take her own life in the way that Eilert was supposed to take his. At the end of the play, Hedda shoots herself. Hedda’s jealousy and her actions throughout the play that are a direct result of that jealousy led her to do some truly horrible things to others. However, one of her manipulations did not go according to her plans, causing her to lose all the control over her life that she had gotten by manipulating the other characters.
Because she could not handle this total loss of control, she took her own life. This shows that because of her jealousy, she ultimately was at fault for her own death. Hedda was a woman and therefore had very little control over her own life to begin with, which was why she initially became jealous of others. When other people got things that she did not, she lashed out and made sure that they were not happier or could have more than she did. She let her emotions get out of control and let them dictate what she did and how she lived her life.
The injustice of the time towards women was a major cause of her jealousy which led her to be manipulative, malicious, and downright cruel to other characters in the play. The play Hedda Gabler was Ibsen’s way of showing how social injustice can cause people to do dramatic and drastic things in order to compensate for what they are missing in their own lives. Ibsen uses the character of Hedda to show how this injustice can affect people and how it can make them resent their status in life, become jealous, and stop at nothing to bring some form of equality or fairness into their lives.