What is Hedda Gabler? Well, it’s a play about someone named Hedda Gabler. Within the first few minutes, expository dialogue and the stylized setting allow you to tell that Hedda happens to be a person of high status married to someone in a lower social standing. The room where most of the play takes place has lovely flower vases, detailed curtains, and tiled walls. Just by looking at the setup, it is quite easy to tell that whoever lives there cares about aesthetics. This is further emphasized as two women talk about how particular this Hedda is. Instead of just introducing Hedda to the audience, Miss Tesman and Berta reminisce about how spoiled she was when her general of a father was still alive. This upbringing they describe lays the foundation of what kind of character the audience expects her to be.
As a mild feminist, I expect men to portray every female character they write like a damsel in distress. Surprisingly, Ibsen molds Hedda as a manipulative sociopath as she tries to take control of the lives of the men surrounding her. Women tend to exist for men, yet in Hedda’s case: the men exist for her. At least, that’s what she thinks. Hedda usually gets what she asks for and more. The conversation she has with Judge Brack reveals how she gets what she wants in a way where she still loses. She technically has the house of “her dreams” but remains unhappy. Hedda reveals that she thoughtlessly told Tesman she wanted to live there. Something as serious as buying a house usually requires at least more than half a second of thought.
Any time the word “bored” comes up during the play, it comes from Hedda’s mouth. It’s hard to blame her, the men in the play come in and out of the room while she is confined within the four walls. As lavish as these walls are, it doesn’t change the fact that she is trapped in them. She tries to control everything within the walls that are imprisoning her. She can’t do much as a woman in her time, so she attempts to manipulate the men in her life. In the end, she finally leaves the room and takes her own life as that is the only thing she truly has control over. As unlikeable as Hedda Gabler is, she portrays a message that many people forget. The only life you can hold in your palm is your own.