Hedda Gabler
Hedda Gabler
by Henrik Ibsen
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Hedda Gabler Theme of Appearances

Beauty is power in Hedda Gabler. Hedda herself is a stunning woman of aristocratic good looks, which she uses to get what she wants. Because everyone wants to sleep with her, she has power over men – a rare scenario in a world defined by Victorian values (according to which women are subservient and men dominant). Aesthetics are important to the play as well: the aristocratic class, more so than the middle class, is obsessed with appearances and with avoiding what it deems ugly. The retreat into a romanticized, idealized world of aesthetic rather than moral values is a hallmark of the titular character.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Between George, Brack, and Eilert, it seems like all the men are drooling over Hedda. Is this primarily because of her looks, or because of her personality?
  2. How is "beauty" defined in Hedda Gabler? Everyone’s always talking about Hedda’s looks, yet Eilert declares that Mrs. Elvsted is lovely to look at. Which character better represents attractiveness?
  3. Hedda is supposed to be beautiful, but there’s also something cold and dangerous about her appearance (think about her all-black attire, her cold grey eyes, her pale complexion). Does this "dangerous" element detract from or add to her beauty? Does it depend on which character is looking at her?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

George Tesman, Eilert Løvborg, and Judge Brack all find Hedda attractive for different reasons.

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