What were the symbolic objects brought in the play Hedda Gabbler?

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Name VonRueden eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I'm not sure I would necessarily agree that symbolic objects are a major element in Hedda Gabler or in Ibsen's plays overall. Ibsen is a writer who presents things more literally than one might expect, given his status as a quasi-modernist who influenced or prefigured much of the twentieth-century theater. His plays are almost like modern films in their directness and straightforwardness. Still, if I were to choose one element in Hedda Gabler that symbolizes a central idea of the play, it would be Ejlert's manuscript. The book Ejlert has written represents his own intellectual achievement, the overcoming of his personal deficiencies, and a bond he has established with Thea—one he apparently has never had with Hedda despite his continued obsession with her.

The misplacement of the manuscript shows both Ejlert's personal irresponsibility and the fact that he's dysfunctional with respect to his intellectual and emotional life. Hedda's husband, Tesman, goes into a veritable frenzy, along with Thea, to try to reconstruct the manuscript. Tesman's absurd distance from Hedda emotionally, and the exclusion of Hedda from what he considers important, is made clear at this point in the action. Hedda has destroyed Ejlert's book not merely out of envy and hatred, but also (in my view, though others may disagree) to help Tesman, since Ejlert is his rival and has bested him in the creation of this "brilliant" work. When Hedda sees that Tesman cares more about intellectual matters than about her, it's the final straw. The additional factor of Brack's attempt to coerce her into a relationship may be only a side issue, and she destroys herself, seeing nothing of value for her in this life.

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Three symbolic objects are Eilert's manuscript, Thea's hair, and the pistols.

Eilert's manuscript is symbolically the child born of his and Thea's love for each other.  In destroying it, Hedda, out of jealousy, seeks to break the bond between the two.  Thea's beautiful, abundant hair, in contrast to Hedda's hair, stands for those qualities of captivating femininity Thea possesses and Hedda lacks. The pistols represent masculinity.  The fact that Hedda is interested in them is arguably symbolic of the hardening of her character due to her repressed femininity, and in a larger sense might signify the freedom denied women of her time.

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chickpea | Student

Hair is also a symbol of fertility or fecundity. This is also linked to the dichotomy of the characters of Hedda and Thea. Hedda is ironically fertile physically as evidenced in her pregnancy, but sterile in her desire to destory new life, which is symbolised through the burning of Ejlert and Thea's "child". Thea is physically sterile, having only step children.

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