Hedda Gabler

Why exactly did Hedda kill herself?

because Lovborg failed her? or she couldn't handle reality? or she couldn't find her purpose to live for? or all?

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Why Does Hedda Commit Suicide?

Argh. We were hoping you weren’t going to ask us that. Hedda kills herself for any number of reasons. As we all know, she’s been unhappy for quite some time now. We know she’s bored, trapped in a loveless marriage, completely stifled, living below her standards, married to a buffoon, and about to have a baby she in no way wants. But while she’s not exactly tripping the light fantastic to begin with, Hedda’s been getting by. So which is the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Here are a few possibilities.

1) She can’t stand the thought of the judge having power over her. Or, in Hedda’s own words, "No—I can’t bear the thought of it! Never!" If she’s been getting her kicks thus far by having power and manipulating others…she just lost her hobby.

2) She has nothing to live for. Remember what we were saying about women in this play needing a purpose in their lives? Well, check out the exchange between Hedda and George right before her suicide. She asks if there’s anything he needs her for, and he replies, "No, nothing in the world." A few lines later, Hedda asks, "What will I do evenings?" Like Mrs. Elvsted, she’s facing the bleak prospect of nothingness that is par for the Victorian course.

3) She finally faces her pregnancy. Yes, Hedda has been pregnant for all of the play, but she’s been in denial for the first three acts. Did you notice that one of Hedda’s big outbursts comes when she finally reveals to George (and admits to herself) that she’s going to have a baby? Or her words to Judge Brack: "I have no talent for such things! I won’t have responsibilities!" The fact that she takes the gun from the writing table BEFORE she comes under the Judge’s thumb and BEFORE she declares there’s nothing left to live for is a great piece of evidence for this theory.

4) She’s lost her aesthetic ideal. Hedda declares that she "doesn’t believe in vine leaves anymore" and is disgusted to hear the truth about Eilert’s death. "Does everything I touch turn ridiculous and vile?" she asks. And the events around her answer "yes." So much for being "free of everything ugly."

5) Hedda is afraid of breaking the rules. Because she’s being blackmailed, Hedda has to decide whether to face the public scandal of an investigation regarding the pistol, or the private shame of an affair with Judge Brack. She’s horrified of scandal, so she kills herself to escape it. If this one is true, it means that Hedda is still a coward when she dies.

6) She’s proving her own courage, maintaining her aesthetic ideal, freeing herself from Victorian values, and sticking it to the Judge and her husband. This is certainly the most optimistic interpretation. In this theory, Hedda’s suicide is victorious. She proves that a noble death (i.e., a gunshot to the temple) is possible, and she finally faces her fear of scandal (what’s more of a scandal than spontaneous suicide?). She stops living vicariously and takes strong action herself. George loses the one thing he prizes most – his trophy wife – and Brack never gets to have sex with the woman he’s been lusting after. Hedda wins.

So that’s that. But before we send you on your way, check out these two interesting critical theories.



There are two other critical analysis at the link I've provided on the above answer box.