If the pathos of these would-be heroes often falls flat, the play continually makes use of the at times cheap pathos of the martyr, specifically the martyred child and the old man. In contrast to the pathetic Hialmar, Hedvig and Ekdal's suffering continuously appears pitiable. They are wounded ducks, shot down by hunters or torn from their families. Here Hedvig in particular functions as an object of pity: whatever happens between Gina and Hialmar, they must protect the child.
Finally, in Relling's exhortations, the child, and specifically the daughter, become an object of quasi-medical inquiry. On the cusp of a birthday, Hedvig is at a particularly critical junction in her adolescence and her constitution is changing. Her irrationality manifests itself in her games of house-on-fire. The significance of this game remains unclear though the weighty symbolism throughout the play invites speculation.