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Analysis

Names

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

As evidenced by the title, names are a big deal in Hedda Gabler (see "What's Up With the Title?"). They reflect the tension between formality and intimacy or between single and married life. Here are some examples. Eilert calls Hedda "Hedda Gabler" because he still imagines her as the girl he once knew, not the married woman she is now. Hedda won’t call Aunt Julie by her first name because she feels it’s too informal and wants to keep her distance. On the other hand, Julie calls Hedda by her first name – until the hat incident goes down and she gets peeved. George keeps calling Mrs. Elvsted Miss Rysing because he remembers her as the girl he used to date. Eilert calls Mrs. Elvsted Thea, so we know that they are on intimate terms. At the same time, Hedda won’t let him call her by her first name because it’s not proper. When she wants to manipulate Mrs. Elvsted into thinking they are good friends, Hedda insists that they use each other’s first names. At the beginning of the play, Julie makes a big deal out of Berta referring to George as Dr. Tesman now, instead of Mr. Tesman.

The most illustrative example is the use of names between Hedda and George. George addresses his wife by name 73 times in the course of the play – not to mention all the times he refers to her by name to others. Hedda hardly ever addresses her husband by name. When Tesman thinks that Hedda has destroyed Eilert’s manuscript because she loves him, he hopes that she will now start using his name. George clearly feels much closer to his wife than she feels to him. Hedda prefers to keep her formal, aristocratic distance.

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