Hedda Gabler: Top Ten Quotes
Top Ten Quotes
Brack: Fortunately, the nuptial journey is at an end…
Hedda: The journey’ll be a long one… a long one yet, I’ve just come to a stopping-place on the line.
—Act Two (p. 203)
Hedda seizes on Brack’s mention of a literal journey—the honeymoon from which she and Tesman have just returned—and transforms into a metaphor to express her dissatisfaction with what she views as the tedium that her life has become. Her present situation she views only as a temporary state of affairs. Ironically, however, the only “stopping-place” at which Hedda will arrive his her own death.
Hedda: My impulsiveness had its consequences, my dear Mr. Brack.
Brack: Unfortunately… impulsiveness does that only too frequently, my lady.
—Act Two (p. 207)
This exchange exemplifies one of Ibsen’s central themes in Hedda Gabler: namely, that consequences must be faced and resolved satisfactorily in order for live to be lived. Refusing to do so in her own life, Hedda naturally, by Ibsen’s dramatic logic, fails to live; and her death is the natural “consequence” of that failure.
Hedda: Oh courage… oh yes! If only one had that… Then life might be livable, in spite of everything.
—Act Two (p. 221)
Hedda expresses her desire to see courage within others and herself, a recurring motif in the drama. Ironically, of course, her suicide at the play’s end shows the ultimate failure to live and act courageously (which would entail confronting and coping with the consequences of one’s actions—see the previous quotation).
Mrs. Elvsted: You’ve got some reason for all this, Hedda!
Hedda: Yes, I have. For once in my life I want to feel that I control a human destiny.
Mrs. Elvsted: But surely you do already?
Hedda: I don’t, and I never have done.
—Act Two (p. 226)
Concomitant with Hedda’s professed desire for courage is her stated desire for control, not only of her own fate but also the fates of those around her. Ibsen may be suggesting that the desire to grasp and wield such control is actually a mask for failure to recognize one’s own vulnerability and subjection to social forces.
Lövborg: I’ve torn my own life to pieces. So I might as well tear up my life’s work as well.
Mrs. Elvsted: And you did that last night!
Lövborg: Yes, I tell you. Into a thousand pieces. And scattered them out in the fjord. A long way out. At least the water’s clean and salt out there. They’ll drift with the current and the wind. And after a while they’ll sink. Deeper and deeper. Like I will, Thea.
Mrs. Elvsted: I want you to know, Lövborg, what you’ve done to the book… For the rest of my life it’ll be for me as though you’d killed a little child.
—Act Three (p. 243)
This exchange establishes Lövborg’s manuscript as a concrete symbol of the future, a future that, through Hedda’s rash action, Mrs. Elvsted and Lövborg will now never realize. It adds further moral weight to Hedda’s actions, for what she has done is now, in the play’s logic, equivalent to murder. This, too, is a consequence Hedda refuses to face.
It’s a liberation [for me] to know that an act of spontaneous courage is yet possible in this world. An act that has something of unconditional beauty.
—Hedda, Act Four (p. 258)
This statement is Hedda’s evaluation of Lövborg’s actions when Hedda is led to believe that Lövborg has shot himself. It shows the audience Hedda’s fundamental misidentification of impulsive destructiveness (as in her own suicide, shortly to transpire) with courage and control.
Everything I touch seems destined to turn into something mean and farcical.
—Hedda, Act Four (p. 259)
These words form one of Hedda’s truer statements in the course of the play. Hedda, however, never explores the reasons that this dynamic should be so in her life. The context of the play as a whole suggests that it is due to her refusal to grapple with the consequences of her actions, her refusal to grow and become more than General Gabler’s daughter.
Hedda: I’d sooner die!
Brack: People say such things. But they don’t do them.
—Act Four (p. 262)
This exchange emerges as an ironic foreshadowing of the play’s falling action; Hedda does, of course, kill herself in the end.
Hedda: And so I am in your power, Mr. Brack. From now on I am at your mercy.
Brack: Dearest Hedda… believe me… I shall not abuse the position.
Hedda: In your power, all the same. Subject to your will and demands! No longer free!
—Act Four (p. 262)
Hedda here expresses her revulsion at being under anyone’s control but her own. While self-autonomy is surely a worthy goal, Ibsen’s play suggests that we must all come to some sort of peace with the extent to which we all live dependent on forces beyond our control and interdependent with other people.
I shall be silent in the future.
—Hedda, Act Four (p. 263)
A further, final foreshadowing of Hedda’s rash, self-destructive suicide. She shall, literally, be silent because she will be depriving herself of any opportunity to grow, change, and speak further.