In the story of Hedda Gabler, Hedda is portrayed as a powerful, manipulative, over-powering character. Her need to dominate is easily seen through her odd relationships involving her husband Jurgen Tesman, Judge Brack, Ejlert Loevborg, and even her childhood friend Mrs. Elvsted. The underlying theme is that of manipulation and the urge to better the outcome of situations by the main character Hedda Tesman. The theme is apparent even in the story's title, Hedda Gabler (Hedda's maiden name, as if perhaps not officially acknowledging her marriage to Jurgen Tesman). The story begins with Tesman's Aunt Julle visiting the newlyweds house, and to Tesman's dismay, Hedda is insulting and cruel to Aunt Julle. She rejects his proposals to be nicer to his aunt and quickly illustrates to the reader who the domineering party is in the relationship.
Hedda proceeds later in the story to form close personal bonds with Tesman's friends, Judge Brack and Ejlert Loevborg, and in a bizarre way, considers this cheating on Tesman (in an emotional sense not so much as a physical sense).
An example of this manipulation is seen in a conversation with Loevborg:
HEDDA: [Looks into his eyes] But if I want you to?
LOEVBORG: That doesn't make any difference.
HEDDA: Have I no power over you at all? Poor me!
This emotional infidelity is not an effort to appease Hedda, but rather an odd way of developing an upper hand in her and Tesman's relationship, as well as drawing support from his close friends. By Hedda becoming the 'best friend' to each of the characters in this story, she easily controls the result of any important events, and through a manipulative manner, distorts the outcome to her strange desired effect. After Ejlert loses his script, Tesman confesses to Hedda that he possesses it without Ejlert's knowledge. With Ejlert on the brink of suicide, Hedda supplies him with a pistol and seems only to be interested that Ejlert dies a 'beautiful death'. This is apparent in the following dialogue referring to Ejlert's suicide:
HEDDA: Through the breast, you say?
BRACK: That is what I said.
HEDDA: Not through the head?
BRACK: Through the breast, Mrs. Tesman.
HEDDA: The breast. Yes; yes. That's good, too.
She burns the manuscript but to her surprise, Ejlert dies a gruesome death, which upsets her greatly. Her mental insanity becomes obvious, when in a later line she proclaims, "Oh, Judge! This act of Ejlert Loevborg's- doesn't it give one a sense of relief!" She slips away to a back room and shoots herself, committing suicide and ending the story. Although Hedda's manipulation of events may seem selfish, she was simply trying to make things 'more beautiful' in a twisted artistic way. The theme of this story is that of the social domination employed by the mentally disturbed Hedda Tesman and her desire to be an artist that controls the outcome of real life situations.