SYMBOLISM IN HEDDA GABLER Grade 12 HL Language A1 What is the purpose of Symbolism? Repeated images and symbols are frequently used in dramas to contribute to the development of the themes. The repetition of a certain image in the context of the play attaches metaphorical significance to a physical object. Setting The setting of "Hedda Gabler," which remains unchanged through the play, is significant symbolically as it demonstrates the domestic cage into which Hedda, as a woman and wife, had been cast. The dark, sombre colours of the drawing room presents the "monotonous landscape" that constitutes her prison, relieved by a glass door that looks out onto "autumn foliage." Through the entire play, the audience is visually reminded of the symbolic representation of the spiritual barrenness of the house, which opens out to deteriorating life - "all yellow and withered," nearing the season of death. This casts ominous overtones on the actions of the characters in this setting. Pistols The pistols, given to her by her father, are symbols of masculine power and aggression. They give Hedda the power of life and death, one she uses to the detriment of others around her in the selfish desire to give meaning to her life. They inspired momentary fear in Judge Brack in his first visit to Hedda, his unsavory intentions indicated by his using the back way. More importantly, they are the instruments through which Hedda can exert her control over another "human being's fate," House The house "reminds one of the departed" symbolises the decline of the power of the aristocracy in the 1890's, taken over by the stoical bourgeoisie. Hedda, once a former member of the higher classes, has been forced to marry down into a lower class, which she speaks contemptibly of. She finds her life to be one without purpose besides "boring herself to death" and that middle class morality has effectively eliminated whatever social power she once had as General Gabler's daughter - in effect, a "lady." The Glass Door Her frustration at her powerlessness and dependence on an simpleminded scholar is best represented by the repeated image of her "looking out the glass door." The glass door, in itself, presents only a fragile, easily breakable barrier between her entrapment and the outside world. She longs for freedom, to catch a "glimpse of a world that one wasn't allowed to know about" but this transparent barrier confines Hedda. The image of her "walking nervously" across the enclosed, claustrophobic space of the drawing room to look out or "tap nervously" on the glass door stresses that the society in general has imprisoned her due to its restrictive definition of femininity. General Gabler’s Picture That Hedda struggles against the role of subservient wife and loving mother can be explained by her masculine upbringing and the strong father figure that dominates her sub-conscious. Both these are symbolized by the portrait of General Gabler which peers imposingly from the inner room, representative of Hedda's sub-conscious, to dominate the entire stage setting. Though she never once mentions her father, it is obvious that her craving for power and alignment with male desires are stemmed from him. Hence, Hedda's character and life seem to be wholly determined through this strong connection with a military past, which emphasizes conformity and discipline. There lies the chief reason as to her mortal fear of scandal - "I never jump out." She, then, is also a woman trapped by her past. Throne Objects in the room presents a host of repeated images, most important of which are the easy chair and the stove. The easy chair connotes a throne, that is, the seat of power. The power play in the interactions of the characters is conveyed through possession of this seat. Originally, Hedda is the one who sits in it, connoting the fact that she holds the power although it is restricted to the domestic sphere. She is the stronger figure in her relationship with Tesman as he serves her like a loyal, admiring subject - "It's so jolly waiting on you, Hedda." Further, when Brack first comes to call in Act 1, her actions "[lying back and reaching out her hand]" seem to indicate her regal aura she held his audience from the throne. Hair Description of the characters' physical appearances present continuous images through the play; notably, the description of the women's' hair. The fact that Hedda's hair is "not noticeably abundant" signifies her lack of spiritual substance, her incapability to experience depth of emotion and her fear of commitment and responsibility, especially such pertaining to motherhood. In this instance, she is revealed to be an unconventional woman who despises her own femaleness. On the other hand, Thea is a woman very much in touch with her feminine side, her hair being "remarkably fair… exceptionally thick and wavy." Her hair highlights her femininity and she is capable of love, serving to inspire Lovborg and to contribute to the creation of their spiritual child. Vine Leaves in the Hair "Vineleaves in the hair" is a repeated image made by Hedda in relation to her former lover. It is a symbol of victory, heroism and conquest. Hedda wants this of Lovborg because she desires to vicariously witness his success and empowerment. Her self-centred nature is highlighted as whatever emotion she feels for him is ruthlessly pushed aside in the view that he promises her personal power. The image is also reminiscent of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, fertility and pleasure. Excessive behaviour is freedom to Hedda's corrupted view.