Hedda Gabler Questions and Answers
by Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler book cover
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In Ibsen's play Hedda Gabler, what does Helda mean when she tells Eilert to end his life "beautifully"?  

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Ibsen's Hedda Gabler is something of a romantic.  She wants to inspire others to greatness--either in life or in death.  When she learns that she is not the inspiration for Eilert's brilliant masterpiece, she destroys it, and tries to convince Eilert that the best way to handle such a tragic loss is to kill himself--beautifully, courageously, heroically. 

 To her, suicide is a noble act, especially if it is a suicide that she inspired.  Hedda longs to make a difference; she longs to influence, to control. And if she cannot influence one to create, she can influence him to destroy.  Of course, the plan backfires.  Eilert, though understandably upset at not being able to find the manuscript, has no intention of killing himself.  Not knowing that Hedda has burned it, Eilert goes in search of it and in a drunkened state shoots himself "in the bowels" accidentally.  Hardly a beautiful or noble death--not even a tragic one.  Only sad and unfortunate. 

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