Study Guide

Hedda Gabler Appearances

By Henrik Ibsen

Appearances

MISS TESMAN
Well, you can't wonder at that—General Gabler's daughter! Think of the sort of life she was accustomed to in her father's time. Don't you remember how we used to see her riding down the road along with the General? In that long black habit—and with feathers in her hat? (1.13)

Hedda’s appearance is discussed in very particular terms and characterized by specific imagery. All black, feathers, atop a horse – these all paint the portrait of the reserved, wealthy, powerful, and cold Hedda Gabler.

MISS TESMAN [Suddenly changing her tone.] And to think that here are you a married man, George!—And that you should be the one to carry off Hedda Gabler—the beautiful Hedda Gabler! Only think of it—she, that was so beset with admirers! (1.54)

Hedda is defined by her looks. In this society, beauty seems to be her only value. Only Judge Brack and Eilert are able to appreciate Hedda’s other, er, talents.

[In the meantime, HEDDA walks about the room, raising her arms and clenching her hands as if in desperation. Then she flings back the curtains from the glass door, and stands there looking out.] (Stage directions after 1.170)

Whoa there. Hedda is clearly harboring some hidden rage. Notice the word "hidden" here. She’s so concerned with keeping up appearances that she stifles even this intense anger.

MRS. ELVSTED is a woman of fragile figure, with pretty, soft features. Her eyes are light blue, large, round, and somewhat prominent, with a startled, inquiring expression. Her hair is remarkably light, almost flaxen, and unusually abundant and wavy. She is a couple of years younger than HEDDA She wears a dark visiting dress, tasteful, but not quite in the latest fashion. (Stage directions after 1.209)

Mrs. Elvsted embodies all the femininity that Hedda lacks; this is apparent from the moment we see her.

BRACK
Because if I had thought of it I should have come a little—earlier.
HEDDA
[Crossing the room.] Then you would have found no one to receive you; for I have been in my room changing my dress ever since lunch.
BRACK
And is there no sort of little chink that we could hold a parley through? (2.20-2)

OK, Brack wants Hedda. We get the message. This is the result of her looks, yes, but also the fact that she shares Brack’s proclivity for the risqué.

LØVBORG.
[Who has never taken his eyes off her, says softly and slowly:] Hedda—Gabler! (2.287)

Løvborg is presented as yet another admirer of the lovely Hedda. But we soon discover that, unlike George, his feelings have more to do with Hedda’s personality than her looks.

LØVBORG
[After a short pause, to HEDDA] Is not she lovely to look at? (2.387)

Løvborg is basically just taunting Hedda here. It’s funny that he takes this particular angle, since Hedda is considered the hottest thing around town.

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