Analysis of Scene from Hedda Gabler

How might the audience respond to the characters at different points? How do the characters contrast against and react to each other?

In this scene from the play, Hedda Gabler by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, the audience is brought into keen awareness of the title character's problematic relationship with the surroundings she finds herself in. Hedda's dissatisfaction with her environment grows increasingly obvious, as her exchanges with the other two characters are shown to be filled with unspoken friction, and the contrast between her aristocratic background and their bourgeois values is further highlighted through the interactions of the characters, the stage directions, and the characters' relationships with their environmental objects.

Hedda finds the setting that marriage has placed her in unnatural, as she is of a higher class, and hence status, than the Tesmans. The portrait of Hedda's father, General Gabler, frames the action of the scene as it is visibly hung in the Tesmans' drawing room. In this way, the audience is alerted to the contrasting social status and values of the Gablers, as generals are members of the aristocracy in Norwegian society. The presence of his portrait is incongruent with the glaringly puritanical, middle-class setting of the Tesmans' home (the set is littered with decorations mostly preferred by the middle-class, such as the 'whatnots'), and lends itself as a symbol of the military-aristocratic world which Hedda has been removed from, simply by virtue of her marriage to Tesman.   Hedda is clearly aware of this incongruence and rendered deeply frustrated by it, thus resulting in her unyielding condescension to Tesman and his aunt, despite – or perhaps even because of – their repeated efforts to please her. At certain points in the scene, the audience may grow sympathetic to the Tesmans as Hedda's lines are fraught with hostile subtext. Indeed, one may find more meaning in the implicit, rather than explicit, significances...