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The theme of the play can be described as a conflict between society and the individual. Hedda wants to satisfy her "crowing for life" yet she is held back by stultifying, empty social norms. She highlights the universal problem of women in a male-dominated society where women must either marry and be good wives and mothers and bear children or they slip into spinster-hood like Aunt Julia who looks after Tesman, her invalid sister Rina and after her death, other invalids. Mrs. Elvsted marries an unloving elderly man, as her only option was to remain penniless and fend for herself. However, Hedda is not as able as Mrs. Elvsted to break the social conventions and risk ostracism. It is for this reason she heads off Lövborg with her pistols and marries Tesman who represents respectability. But this very respectability drives her to boredom, denies her maternal instincts, and destroys the manuscript conceived by Mrs. Elvsted and Lövborg. Since Hedda cannot break free from social conventions like Mrs. Elvsted nor escape Brack's inexorable hold on her because she fears scandal. She must commit a valiant suicide, as it is the only course open to free her from the restriction of society.
The mood of the play is one of pessimism. It shows how the conflict of the individual against society often ends in destruction. Here, Hedda desires independence and personal freedom but is not strong enough to rebel against society. She conforms to the rigid conception of what women can and cannot be which results in emotional sterility. Not being in a position to achieve anything positive or concrete, and resorting to manipulative and deceitful games, she seeks suicide as a way out.