44 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen

Hedda Gabler

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1890

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Symbols & Motifs

Hedda’s Pistols

Content Warning: This section discusses death by suicide.

Hedda’s two pistols that she inherited from her father represent her power and individuality in the face of The Constraints of Social Convention. When she is bored and frustrated at the Falk villa, Hedda entertains herself by shooting her pistols at the sky—and on one occasion at Brack, though she deliberately misses. She talks to Ejlert about the time she nearly shot him; she says she regrets not following through, and he implies that he regrets it, too. The pistols are Hedda’s only way of only way of Gaining Power and Influence when she feels otherwise trapped. She persuades Ejlert to shoot himself by lying to him about the manuscript. At the end of the play, shooting herself with the remaining pistol is the only way she can see to avoid being under another person’s control.

Henrik Ibsen said that he titled the play Hedda Gabler instead of Hedda Tesman because he felt that Hedda’s identity was more closely aligned with her father, the general, than with her husband. The pistols represent this connection: Hedda is a married woman, but she is unwilling to play the role set out for her.