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Hedda Gabler is a play whose authorship belongs to one Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen, a Norwegian, published this play in 1890. The play takes place in George Tesman’s living room and another room much smaller than the former. Word from Judge Brack has it that the alcoholic Eilert Lovborg who is now rehabilitating has returned as a success. He further intimates that Lovborg is eyeing a professorial position at the university, a position that Tesman is also seeking. This sparks some rivalry between Tesman and Lovborg without the knowledge of the latter. The dominoes begin to fall resulting into the death of Lovborg and Hedda Tesman. Hedda commits suicide because she becomes privy to the information that Brack knows about her role in Lovborg’s death. Without much ado, this paper seeks to bring out an analogy of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in the light of theoretical views as far as happiness, morality and critical thinking are concerned.

A theoretical look at Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

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Carol Gilligan saw it fit to put a different paradigm on the table of psychological thinking contrary to her counterparts, Kohlberg, Freud and Erik Erickson. She claimed that the new thinking she contributed was motivated by the biasness she noted in the researches done by Kohlberg for instance. To Gilligan, the theories of moral development as presented by Kohlberg gave so much value to the masculine outlook on justice issues of morality as opposed to the feminine perspective, which hinged on a pathway of ‘care’ (Gilligan, 1982). Therefore, she came up with slightly different stages of moral development that incorporated the womenfolk as key decision makers on issues of morality. These were namely preconvention (selfish), conventional (social) and post conventional (principled) moralities.

Hedda’s definition of morality based on the Gillian’s ‘care’ path is well evident in the way she handles herself and others. Her aristocratic background makes her to view others like Berte the maid and Aunt Julia inferior as far as her outlook on fashion is concerned. She displays Gillian’s first stage of moral development of selfishness by elevating herself above others. While talking about Julia’s bonnet and Berte she says,

HEDDA: …Oh, there the servant has gone and opened the veranda door, and let in a whole flood of sunshine.

HEDDA: …Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair (Ibsen, 1907).

Moreover, Hedda becomes jealous of the relationship between Lovborg and Miss Elvsted. Consequently, she begins a mission to annihilate Lovborg by using her seductive power to make him relapse into alcoholism. The selfish motives she develops against Lovborg and Elvsted because of their thriving relationship, which is headed for success and happiness, motivate her reaction. Furthermore, her ambition to wield control over others leads to her suicidal death since she realized Brack’s knowledge of her involvement in Lovborg’s demise. Hedda kills herself because she thinks that Brack now has control over her. Tesman on the other hand finds it difficult to destroy Lovborg’s manuscripts as he resents him. The moral views on justice, as Kohlberg posits, prevent him from acting according to his wishes. Tesman loses the battle with his moral hunches since he considers it immoral to destroy the manuscripts belonging to Lovborg.

Another theoretical perspective demonstrated in Hedda Gabler is critical thinking. It is the ability to think reflectively and reasonably with the aim of arriving at a decision on how to handle a situation. Hedda demonstrates this thinking when she develops selfish motives against Elvsted and Lovborg. In order to do away with Lovborg who seems to be a threat to her husband’s attainment of his ambition to become a professor, she develops a plan to self-destroy him. Critical thinking proves as leverage in helping her to strategize a plot to make Lovborg to drink and later on convince him to commit the heinous act of suicide. This ploy works out perfectly and thus she succeeds in stamping out Tesman’s threat. Hedda too succeeds in doing away with Elvsted’s relationship with Lovsborg that headed for success. She convinces Lovborg to commit suicide and as a result finds what she considers a solution to her problems.

Final but not less important is the third theoretical paradigm, happiness. A number of efforts to experience happiness can be isolated from Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. One such instance is noticeable when Julia goes an extra mile in spending on behalf of Tesman. This is evident in the following conversation,

MISS TESMAN: Yes, don’t be uneasy, my dear boy. — Besides, I have given security for the furniture and all the carpets.

TESMAN: Security? You? My dear Aunt Julia — what sort of security could you give?

MISS TESMAN. I have given a mortgage on our annuity.

TESMAN:  [Jumps up.] What! On your — and Aunt Rina’s annuity! (Ibsen, 1907).

Miss Tesman (Julia) believes performing a good act like giving a source of happiness. This goes well with the utilitarian principle that an act that produces an overall beneficial outcome, one that maximizes utility and welfare, is moral. The thought of being morally right elicits the feelings of accomplishment and hence happiness.


The three theoretical views of happiness, morality and critical thinking have been depicted on many instances in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. This paper though, has isolated only a few instances. This masterpiece, therefore, depicts real life experience that affects everyone. It can thus provide several lessons on how to handle issues in life and how socialize with others.

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