More on Ghosts
Introduction see all, summary see all, themes see all.
- Freedom and Confinement
- Lies and Deceit
- Respect and Reputation
- Memory and the Past
- Society and Class
- Guilt and Blame
Characters See All
- Mrs. Alving
- Pastor Manders
Analysis See All
- What's Up With the Title?
- What's Up With the Ending?
- Writing Style
- Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
- Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
- Plot Analysis
- Three Act Plot Analysis
Quotes See All
- For Teachers
Oswald the Iconoclast
Oswald has a lot in common with Henrik Ibsen, the author of Ghosts . Oswald is from Norway but lives in the South (Paris). Ibsen lived in Rome for most of his life, though he continued to write about his homeland. He loathed what he considered the small-minded and puritanical outlook of his countrymen – and they loathed him back, especially when it came to Ghosts . (See " In a Nutshell " for more on this.) Ibsen himself was an iconoclast, meaning he freely expressed his rejection of accepted ideas and institutions. His spokesperson here is Oswald, a non-conformist and an artist struggling to defend his identity in the hostile, judgmental environment of his home. Oswald is a straight shooter. While Pastor Manders and Mrs. Alving often beat politely around the bush, Oswald says what he means. In his first appearance, he chats with Manders for only a couple minutes before he's speaking his mind in defense of unconventional romantic relationships. He gets worked up as he recalls the hypocrite husbands who treat artists' quarters like they are brothels. Then he remembers where he is and apologizes: "Excuse me, Pastor: I know you can't take my point of view; but I couldn't help speaking out" (1.344). Oswald is also merciless with his mother. He rejects her maternal sentimentality. In Act 3, he's just told her that a) he doesn't love his father, and b) he doesn't love her. Oswald doesn't accept the idea that just because he came from Mrs. Alving's womb he owes her something. There's that rejecting-accepted-ideas thing again. He asks why should love her? He didn't grow up living with his parents, he doesn't know them, and coming home is just depressing. He'd rather be in Paris. When Mrs. Alving redoubles her efforts to win his heart, he asks her to stop talking about it, since he has other things on his mind: MRS. ALVING. Oh, I could almost bless the illness that has driven you home to me. For I see very plainly that you are not mine: I have to win you. OSWALD. [Impatiently.] Yes yes yes; all these are just so many phrases. You must remember that I am a sick man, mother. I can't be much taken up with other people; I have enough to do thinking about myself . (3.178-179)
Oswald and Mrs. Alving
Oswald's painfully honest communication style is appropriate to his function in the play. His return home forces Mrs. Alving to confront the truth of her life. She wants to bury her past – and by her past we mean the memory of her alcoholic, philandering husband – but she just can't. The past lives in the present. If she didn't have her rose-colored maternal glasses on, she would recognize that fact when Oswald comes down smoking the pipe in Act 1. He's Captain Alving all over again, as Manders recognizes: "there is an expression about the corners of the mouth – something about the lips – that reminds one exactly of Alving: at any rate, now that he is smoking" (1.282).
Oswald's Joie de Vivre
If Pastor Manders is the representative of law, order, and society, Oswald is the representative of unruly life and passion. Joie de Vivre . The Joy of Life, or Livsglede in Dano-Norwegian. Personal freedom. Choosing your destiny. He articulates his position in Act 2, as Mrs. Alving raptly listens: OSWALD. I only mean that here people are brought up to believe that work is a curse and a punishment for sin, and that life is something miserable, something; it would be best to have done with, the sooner the better….But in the great world people won't hear of such things. There, nobody really believes such doctrines any longer. There, you feel it a positive bliss and ecstasy merely to draw the breath of life. Mother, have you noticed that everything I have painted has turned upon the joy of life? – always, always upon the joy of life? – light and sunshine and glorious air-and faces radiant with happiness. That is why I'm afraid of remaining at home with you . (2.379-380) When Oswald paints a picture of this free, happy life, Mrs. Alving suddenly understands what her husband lacked, why he went so far downhill in the gloomy, duty-bound life of the North. He was suffocated and paralyzed – and under her control.
Oswald and the French Pox
No one ever says the word "syphilis" in this play, but that's what Oswald's got. It's a sexually transmitted disease that can also pass from a mother to a baby. It doesn't make sound medical sense that Oswald got it from his father – but Ibsen is most interested in the metaphor: "The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children" (2.270). The kind of syphilis Oswald seems to have is "tertiary" or "latent" syphilis. It's been dormant in his body and is just emerging, causing the headaches and fatigue he complains about. Untreated (or treated too late), it can result in serious organ and nerve damage, paralysis, muscle deterioration, blindness, and dementia. Oswald is more colorful in his description of the illness; his doctor calls it "a sort of softening of the brain – or something like that. [Smiles sadly.] I think that expression sounds so nice. It always sets me thinking of cherry-coloured velvet – something soft and delicate to stroke" (3.219). Oswald's decline means that Mrs. Alving has to let go of the final "ghost" in her life – her attachment to her son.
Oswald Alving in Ghosts Study Group
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Everything you need for every book you read., oswald alving quotes in ghosts.
OSWALD. […] never have I heard one word that could give offence, let alone seen anything that could be called immoral. No, do you know where and when I have encountered immorality in artistic circles?
MANDERS. No, thank God!
OSWALD. Well then, permit me to tell you. When some of our model husbands and fathers took themselves a trip to Paris to have a look round on the loose…and condescended to drop in on the artists in their modest haunts, that’s when I’ve met it. Then we got to know what was what. These gentlemen were able to tell us about places and things we’d never dreamt of.
That was the endless battle I fought, day after day. When we had Oswald, I rather thought Alving improved a little. But it didn’t last long. And then I had to battle twice as hard, fight tooth and nail to prevent anybody from knowing what sort of person my child’s father was. And you know, of course, how charming Alving could be. Nobody could believe anything but good of him. He was one of those people whose reputation is proof against anything they may do.
That was the time Oswald was sent away. He was getting on for seven, and beginning to notice things and ask questions, as children do. That was something I couldn’t bear. I felt the child would somehow be poisoned simply by breathing the foul air of this polluted house. That was why I sent him away. And now you understand why he was never allowed to set foot in this place as long as his father was alive. Nobody knows what that cost me.
Ghosts. When I heard Regine and Oswald in there, it was just like seeing ghosts. But then I’m inclined to think that we are all ghosts, Pastor Manders, every one of us. It’s not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers that haunts us. It’s all kinds of old defunct theories, all sorts of old defunct beliefs, and things like that. It’s not that they actually live on in us; they are simply lodged there, and we cannot get rid of them. I’ve only to pick up a newspaper and I seem to see ghosts gliding between the lines. Over the whole country there must be ghosts, as numerous as the sands of the sea.
OSWALD. At last he said: there’s been something worm-eaten about you since birth. He used that very word: ‘vermoulu’.
MRS. ALVING [tense]. What did he mean by that?
OSWALD. I couldn’t understand it either, and I asked him for a more detailed explanation. And then he said, the old cynic… [Clenches his fist.] Oh…!
MRS. ALVING. What did he say?
OSWALD. He said: the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.
OSWALD [smiling sadly]. Yes, what do you think? Of course, I assured him that was quite out of the question. But do you think he would give way? No, he wouldn’t budge. And it wasn’t until I’d produced your letters and translated for him all those bits about Father. . . .
MRS. ALVING. What then. . . ?
OSWALD. Well, then he naturally had to admit that he’d been on the wrong track. Then I learnt the truth. The incredible truth! This blissfully happy life I’d been living with my friends, I should never have indulged in it. It had been too much for my strength. So it was my own fault, you see!
MRS. ALVING. Your father could never find any outlet for this tremendous exuberance of his. And I didn’t exactly bring very much gaiety into his home, either.
OSWALD. Didn’t you?
MRS. ALVING. They’d taught me various things about duty and such like, and I’d simply gone on believing them. Everything seemed to come down to duty in the end— my duty and his duty and . . . I’m afraid I must have made the house unbearable for your poor father, Oswald.
MRS. ALVING. What a terrible thought! Surely a child ought to love its father in spite of all?
OSWALD. What if a child has nothing to thank its father for? Never knew him? You don’t really believe in this old superstition still, do you? And you so enlightened in other ways?
MRS. ALVING. You call that mere superstition. . . !
OSWALD. Yes, surely you realize that, Mother. It’s simply one of those ideas that get around and . . .
MRS. ALVING [shaken]. Ghosts!
- My Preferences
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- Literature Notes
- Oswald Alving
- Play Summary
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis
- Character Analysis
- Pastor Manders
- Mrs. Alving
- Jacob Engstrand
- Henrik Ibsen Biography
- Critical Essays
- Theme of Ghosts
- Structure and Technique in Ghosts
- Symbols in Ghosts
- Cite this Literature Note
Character Analysis Oswald Alving
Oswald Alving, although important in the play, is merely a minor character and represents the doomed product of a diseased society. Artistically gifted by having inherited his father's "joy of life" he finds he cannot work at home where the "sun" of self-expression is obscured by the "fog" of duty and social appearances. Fearing that his exuberance and creativity would dissipate, like that of his father, under these circumstances, he wants to leave home with Regina. However Oswald is doomed by a more drastic form of hereditary dissipation; he ends his life in hopeless lunacy, crying vainly for the sun — the symbolic sun of truth, love, and self-expression that he never found among his own people.
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(The same scene. All the doors are standing open. The lamp is still burning on the table. It is dark outside, except for a faint glimmer of light seen through the windows at the back. MRS. ALVING, with a shawl over her head, is standing in the conservatory, looking out. REGINA, also wrapped in a shawl, is standing a little behind her.)
Mrs. Alving. Everything burned – down to the ground.
Regina. It is burning still in the basement.
Mrs. Alving. I can't think why Oswald doesn't come back. There is no chance of saving anything.
Regina. Shall I go and take his hat to him?
Mrs. Alving. Hasn't he even got his hat?
Regina (pointing to the hall). No, there it is, hanging up.
Mrs. Alving. Never mind. He is sure to come back soon. I will go and see what he is doing. (Goes out by the garden door. MANDERS comes in from the hall.)
Manders. Isn't Mrs. Alving here?
Regina. She has just this moment gone down into the garden.
Manders. I have never spent such a terrible night in my life.
Regina. Isn't it a shocking misfortune, sir!
Manders. Oh, don't speak about it. I scarcely dare to think about it.
Regina. But how can it have happened?
Manders. Don't ask me, Miss Engstrand! How should I know? Are you going to suggest too–? Isn't it enough that your father–?
Regina. What has he done?
Manders. He has nearly driven me crazy.
Engstrand (coming in from the hall). Mr. Manders–!
Manders (turning round with a start). Have you ever followed me here!
Engstrand. Yes, God help us all–! Great heavens! What a dreadful thing, your reverence!
Manders (walking u¢ and down). Oh dear, oh dear!
Regina. What do you mean?
Engstrand. Our little prayer-meeting was the cause of it all, don't you see? (Aside, to REGINA.) Now we've got the old fool, my girl. (Aloud.) And to think it is my fault that Mr. Manders should be the cause of such a thing!
Manders. I assure you, Engstrand–
Engstrand. But there was no one else carrying a light there except you, sir.
Manders (standing still). Yes, so you say. But I have no clear recollection of having had a light in my hand.
Engstrand. But I saw quite distinctly your reverence take a candle and snuff it with your fingers and throw away the burning bit of wick among the shavings.
Manders. Did you see that?
Engstrand. Yes, distinctly.
Manders. I can't understand it at all. It is never my habit to snuff a candle with my fingers.
Engstrand. Yes, it wasn't like you to do that, sir. But, who would have thought it could be such a dangerous thing to do?
Manders (walking restlessly backwards and forwards) Oh, don't ask me!
Engstrand (following him about). And you hadn't insured it either, had you, sir?
Manders. No, no, no; you heard me say so.
Engstrand. You hadn't insured it–and then went and set light to the whole place! Good Lord, what bad luck!
Manders (wiping the perspiration from his forehead). You may well say so, Engstrand.
Engstrand. And that it should happen to a charitable institution that would have been of service both to the town and the country, so to speak! The newspapers won't be very kind to your reverence, I expect.
Manders. No, that is just what I am thinking of. It is almost the worst part of the whole thing. The spiteful attacks and accusations–it is horrible to think of!
Mrs. Alving (coming in from the garden). I can't get him away from the fire.
Manders. Oh, there you are, Mrs. Alving.
Mrs. Alving. You will escape having to make your inaugural address now, at all events, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Oh, I would so gladly have–
Mrs. Alving (in a dull voice). It is just as well it has happened. This Orphanage would never have come to any good.
Manders. Don't you think so?
Mrs. Alving. Do you?
Manders. But it is none the less an extraordinary piece of ill luck.
Mrs: Alving. We will discuss it simply as a business matter. Are you waiting for Mr. Manders, Engstrand?
Engstrand (at the hall door). Yes, I am.
Mrs. Alving. Sit down then, while you are waiting.
Engstrand. Thank you, I would rather stand.
Mrs. Alving (to MANDERS). I suppose you are going by the boat?
Manders. Yes: It goes in about an hour–
Mrs. Alving. Please take all the documents back with you. I don't want to hear another word about the matter. I have something else to think about now.
Manders. Mrs. Alving–
Mrs. Alving. Later on I will send you a power of attorney to deal with it exactly as you please.
Manders. I shall be most happy to undertake that; I am afraid the original intention of the bequest will have to be entirely altered now.
Mrs. Alving. Of course.
Manders. Provisionally, I should suggest this way of disposing of it: Make over the Solvik property to the parish. The land is undoubtedly not without a certain value; it will always be useful for some purpose or another. And as for the interest on the remaining capital that is on deposit in the bank, possibly I might make suitable use of that in support of some undertaking that promises to be of use to the town.
Mrs. Alving. Do exactly as you please. The whole thing is a matter of indifference to me now.
Engstrand. You will think of my Sailors' Home, Mr, Manders?
Manders. Yes, certainly, that is a suggestion. But we must consider the matter carefully.
Engstrand (aside). Consider!–devil take it! Oh Lord.
Manders (sighing). And unfortunately I can't tell how much longer I may have anything to do with the matter–whether public opinion may not force me to retire from it altogether. That depends entirely upon the result of the inquiry into the cause of the fire.
Mrs. Alving. What do you say?
Manders. And one cannot in any way reckon upon the result beforehand.
Engstrand (going nearer to him). Yes, indeed one can; because here stand I, Jacob Engstrand.
Manders. Quite so, but–
Engstrand (lowering his voice). And Jacob Engstrand isn't the man to desert a worthy benefactor in the hour of need, as the saying is.
Manders. Yes, but, my dear fellow-how–?
Engstrand. You might say Jacob Engstrand is an angel of salvation, so to speak, your reverence.
Manders. No, no, I couldn't possibly accept that.
Engstrand. That's how it will be, all the same. I know someone who has taken the blame for someone else on his shoulders before now, I do.
Manders. Jacob! (Grasps his hand.) You are one in a thousand! You shall have assistance in the matter of your Sailors' Home, you may rely upon that.
(ENGSTRAND tries to thank him, but is prevented by emotion.)
Manders (hanging his wallet over his shoulder). Now we must be off. We will travel together.
Engstrand (by the dining-room door, says aside to REGINA). Come with me, you hussy! You shall be as cosy as the yolk in an egg!
Regina (tossing her head). Merci!
(She goes out into the hall and brings back MANDERS' luggage.)
Manders. Good-bye, Mrs. Alving! And may the spirit of order and of what is lawful speedily enter into this house.
Mrs. Alving. Goodbye, Mr. Manders.
(She goes into the conservatory, as she sees OSWALD coming in by the garden door.)
Engstrand (as he and REGINA are helping MANDERS on with his coat). Goodbye, my child. And if anything should happen to you, you know where Jacob Engstrand is to be found. (Lowering his voice.) Little Harbour Street, ahem–! (To MRS. ALVING and OSWALD.) And my house for poor seafaring men shall be called the "Alving Home," it shall. And, if I can carry out my own ideas about it, I shall make bold to hope that it may be worthy of bearing the late Mr. Alving's name.
Manders (at the door). Ahem–ahem! Come along, my dear Engstrand. Goodbye–goodbye!
(He and ENGSTRAND go out by the hall door.)
Oswald (going to the table). What house was he speaking about?
Mrs. Alving. I believe it is some sort of a Home that he and Mr. Manders want to start.
Oswald. It will be burned up just like this one.
Mrs. Alving. What makes you think that?
Oswald. Everything will be burned up; nothing will be left that is in memory of my father. Here am I being burned up, too.
(REGINA looks at him in alarm.)
Mrs. Alving. Oswald! You should not have stayed so long over there, my poor boy.
Oswald (sitting down at the table). I almost believe you are right.
Mrs: Alving. Let me dry your face, Oswald; you are all wet. (Wipes his face with her handkerchief.)
Oswald (looking straight before him, with no expression in his eyes). Thank you, mother.
Mrs. Alving. And aren't you tired, Oswald? Don't you want to go to sleep?
Oswald (uneasily). No, no–not to sleep! I never sleep; I only pretend to. (Gloomily.) That will come soon enough.
Mrs. Alving (looking at him anxiously). Anyhow you are really ill, my darling boy.
Regina (intently). Is Mr. Alving ill?
Oswald (impatiently). And do shut all the doors! This deadly fear–
Mrs. Alving. Shut the doors, Regina. (REGINA shuts the doors and remains standing by the hall door. MRS, ALVING takes off her shawl; REGINA does the same. MRS. ALVING draws up a chair near to OSWALD'S and sits down beside him.) That's it! Now I will sit beside you–
Oswald. Yes, do. And Regina must stay in here too; Regina must always be near me. You must give me a helping hand, you know, Regina. Won't you do that?
Regina. I don't understand–
Mrs. Alving. A helping hand?
Oswald. Yes–when there is need for it.
Mrs: Alving. Oswald, have you not your mother to give you a helping hand?
Oswald. You? (Smiles.) No, mother, you will never give me the kind of helping hand I mean. (Laughs grimly.) You! Ha, ha! (Looks gravely at her.) After all, you have the best right. (Impetuously.) Why don't you call me by my Christian name, Regina? Why don't you say Oswald?
Regina (in a low voice). I did not think Mrs. Alving would like it.
Mrs. Alving. It will not be long before you have the right to do it. Sit down here now beside us, too. (REGINA sits down quietly and hesitatingly at the other side of the table.) And now, my poor tortured boy, I am going to take the burden off your mind–
Oswald. You, mother?
Mrs. Alving. –all that you call remorse and regret and self- reproach.
Oswald. And you think you can do that?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, now I can, Oswald. A little while ago you were talking about the joy of life, and what you said seemed to shed a new light upon everything in my whole life.
Oswald (shaking his head). I don't in the least understand what you mean.
Mrs. Alving. You should have known your father in his young days in the army. He was full of the joy of life, I can tell you.
Oswald. Yes, I know.
Mrs. Alving. It gave me a holiday feeling only to look at him, full of irrepressible energy and exuberant spirits.
Oswald. What then?
Mrs. Alving, Well, then this boy, full of the joy of life–for he was just like a boy, then–had to make his home in a second-rate town which had none of the joy of life to offer him, but only dissipations. He had to come out here and live an aimless life; he had only an official post. He had no work worth devoting his whole mind to; he had nothing more than official routine to attend to. He had not a single companion capable of appreciating what the joy of life meant; nothing but idlers and tipplers...
Mrs. Alving. And so the inevitable happened!
Oswald. What was the inevitable?
Mrs. Alving. You said yourself this evening what would happen in your case if you stayed at home.
Oswald. Do you mean by that, that father–?
Mrs. Alving. Your poor father never found any outlet for the overmastering joy of life that was in him. And I brought no holiday spirit into his home, either.
Oswald. You didn't, either?
Mrs. Alving. I had been taught about duty, and the sort of thing that I believed in so long here. Everything seemed to turn upon duty–my duty, or his duty–and I am afraid I made your poor father's home unbearable to him, Oswald.
Oswald. Why didn't you ever say anything about it to me in your letters?
Mrs. Alving. I never looked at it as a thing I could speak of to you, who were his son.
Oswald. What way did you look at it, then?
Mrs. Alving. I only saw the one fact, that your father was a lost man before ever you were born.
Oswald (in a choking voice). Ah–! (He gets up and goes to the window.)
Mrs. Alving. And then I had the one thought in my mind, day and night, that Regina in fact had as good a right in this house–as my own boy had.
Oswald (turns round suddenly), Regina–?
Regina (gets up and asks in choking tones). I–?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, now you both know it.
Regina (to herself). So mother was one of that sort too.
Mrs. Alving. Your mother had many good qualities, Regina.
Regina. Yes, but she was one of that sort too, all the same. I have even thought so myself, sometimes, but–. Then, if you please, Mrs. Alving, may I have permission to leave at once?
Mrs. Alving. Do you really wish to, Regina?
Regina. Yes, indeed, I certainly wish to.
Mrs. Alving. Of course you shall do as you like, but–
Oswald (going up to REGINA). Leave now? This is your home.
Regina. Merci, Mr. Alving–oh, of course I may say Oswald now, but that is not the way I thought it would become allowable.
Mrs. Alving. Regina, I have not been open with you–
Regina. No, I can't say you have! If I had known Oswald was ill– And now that there can never be anything serious between us–. No, I really can't stay here in the country and wear myself out looking after invalids.
Oswald. Not even for the sake of one who has so near a claim on you?
Regina. No, indeed I can't. A poor girl must make some use of her youth, otherwise she may easily land herself out in the cold before she knows where she is. And I have got the joy of life in me too, Mrs. Alving!
Mrs. Alving. Yes, unfortunately; but don't throw yourself away, Regina.
Regina. Oh, what's going to happen will happen. If Oswald takes after his father, it is just as likely I take after my mother, I expect.–May I ask, Mrs. Alving, whether Mr. Manders knows this about me?
Mrs. Alving. Mr. Manders knows everything.
Regina (putting on her shawl). Oh, well then, the best thing I can do is to get away by the boat as soon as I can. Mr. Manders is such a nice gentleman to deal with; and it certainly seems to me that I have just as much right to some of that money as he–as that horrid carpenter.
Mrs. Alving. You are quite welcome to it, Regina.
Regina (looking at her fixedly). You might as well have brought me up like a gentleman's daughter; it would have been more suitable. (Tosses her head.) Oh, well–never mind! (With a bitter glance at the unopened bottle.) I daresay someday I shall be drinking champagne with gentlefolk, after all.
Mrs. Alving. If ever you need a home, Regina, come to me.
Regina. No, thank you, Mrs. Alving. Mr. Manders takes an interest in me, I know. And if things should go very badly with me, I know one house at any rate where I shall feel at home.
Mrs. Alving. Where is that?
Regina. In the "Alving Home."
Mrs. Alving. Regina–I can see quite well–you are going to your ruin!
(She bows to them and goes out through the hall.)
Oswald (standing by the window and looking out). Has she gone?
Mrs. Alving. Yes.
Oswald (muttering to himself). I think it's all wrong.
Mrs. Alving (going up to him from behind and putting her hands on his shoulders). Oswald, my dear boy–has it been a great shock to you?
Oswald (turning his face towards her). All this about father, do you mean?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, about your unhappy father. I am so afraid it may have been too much for you.
Oswald. What makes you think that? Naturally it has taken me entirely by surprise; but, after all, I don't know that it matters much to me.
Mrs. Alving (drawing back her hands). Doesn't matter!–that your father's life was such a terrible failure!
Oswald. Of course I can feel sympathy for him, just as I would for anyone else, but–
Mrs. Alving. No more than that! For your own father!
Oswald (impatiently). Father–father! I never knew anything of my father. I don't remember anything else about him except that he once made me sick.
Mrs. Alving. It is dreadful to think of!–But surely a child should feel some affection for his father, whatever happens?
Oswald. When the child has nothing to thank his father for? When he has never known him? Do you really cling to that antiquated superstition–you, who are so broad-minded in other things?
Mrs. Alving. You call it nothing but a superstition!
Oswald. Yes, and you can see that for yourself quite well, mother. It is one of those beliefs that are put into circulation in the world, and–
Mrs. Alving. Ghosts of beliefs!
Oswald (walking across the room). Yes, you might call them ghosts.
Mrs. Alving (with an outburst of feeling). Oswald! then you don't love me either!
Oswald. You I know, at any rate–
Mrs. Alving. You know me, yes; but is that all?
Oswald. And I know how fond you are of me, and I ought to be grateful to you for that. Besides, you can be so tremendously useful to me, now that I am ill.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, can't I, Oswald! I could almost bless your illness, as it has driven you home to me. For I see quite well that you are not my very own yet; you must be won.
Oswald (impatiently). Yes, yes, yes; all that is just a way of talking. You must remember I am a sick man, mother. I can't concern myself much with anyone else; I have enough to do, thinking about myself.
Mrs. Alving (gently). I will be very good and patient.
Oswald. And cheerful too, mother!
Mrs. Alving. Yes, my dear boy, you are quite right. (Goes up to him.) Now have I taken away all your remorse and self-reproach?
Oswald. Yes, you have done that. But who will take away the fear?
Mrs. Alving. The fear?
Oswald (crossing the room). Regina would have done it for one kind word.
Mrs. Alving. I don't understand you. What fear do you mean–and what has Regina to do with it?
Oswald. Is it very late, mother?
Mrs. Alving. It is early morning. (Looks out through the conservatory windows.) The dawn is breaking already on the heights. And the sky is clear, Oswald. In a little while you will see the sun.
Oswald. I am glad of that. After all, there may be many things yet for me to be glad of and to live for–
Mrs. Alving. I should hope so!
Oswald. Even if I am not able to work–
Mrs. Alving. You will soon find you are able to work again now, my dear boy. You have no longer all those painful depressing thoughts to brood over.
Oswald. No, it is a good thing that you have been able to rid me of those fancies; if only, now, I could overcome this one thing– (Sits down on the couch.) Let us have a little chat, mother.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, let us. (Pushes an armchair near to the couch and sits down beside him.)
Oswald. The sun is rising–and you know all about it; so I don't feel the fear any longer.
Mrs. Alving. I know all about what?
Oswald (without listening to her). Mother, isn't it the case that you said this evening there was nothing in the world you would not do for me if I asked you?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, certainly I said so.
Oswald. And will you be as good as your word, mother?
Mrs. Alving. You may rely upon that, my own dear boy. I have nothing else to live for, but you.
Oswald. Yes, yes; well, listen to me, mother, You are very strong-minded, I know. I want you to sit quite quiet when you hear what I am going to tell you,
Mrs. Alving. But what is this dreadful thing–?
Oswald. You mustn't scream. Do you hear? Will you promise me that? We are going to sit and talk it over quite quietly. Will you promise me that, mother?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes, I promise–only tell me what it is.
Oswald. Well, then, you must know that this fatigue of mine–and my mot being able to think about my work–all that is not really the illness itself–
Mrs. Alving. What is the illness itself?
Oswald. What I am suffering from is hereditary; it–(touches his forehead, and speaks very quietly)–it lies here.
Mrs. Alving (almost speechless). Oswald! No–no!
Oswald. Don't scream; I can't stand it. Yes, I tell you, it lies here, waiting. And any time, any moment, it may break out.
Mrs. Alving. How horrible–!
Oswald. Do keep quiet. That is the state I am in–
Mrs. Alving (springing up). It isn't true, Oswald! It is impossible! It can't be that!
Oswald. I had one attack while I was abroad. It passed off quickly. But when I learned the condition I had been in, then this dreadful haunting fear took possession of me.
Mrs. Alving. That was the fear, then–
Oswald. Yes, it is so indescribably horrible, you know if only it had been an ordinary mortal disease–. I am not so much afraid of dying; though, of course, I should like to live as long as I can.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes, Oswald, you must!
Oswald. But this is so appallingly horrible. To become like a helpless child again–to have to be fed, to have to be–. Oh, it's unspeakable!
Mrs. Alving. My child has his mother to tend him.
Oswald (jumping up). No, never; that is just what I won't endure! I dare not think what it would mean to linger on like that for years–to get old and grey like that. And you might die before I did. (Sits down in MRS. ALVING'S chair.) Because it doesn't necessarily have a fatal end quickly, the doctor said; he called it a kind of softening of the brain–or something of that sort. (Smiles mournfully.) I think that expression sounds so nice. It always makes me think of cherry-coloured velvet curtains– something that is soft to stroke.
Mrs. Alving (with a scream). Oswald!
Oswald (jumps up and walks about the room). And now you have taken Regina from me! If I had only had her, she would have given me a helping hand, I know.
Mrs. Alving (going up to him). What do you mean, my darling boy? Is there any help in the world I would not be willing to give you?
Oswald. When I had recovered from the attack I had abroad, the doctor told me that when it recurred–and it will recur–there would be no more hope.
Mrs. Alving. And he was heartless enough to–
Oswald. I insisted on knowing. I told him I had arrangements to make–. (Smiles cunningly.) And so I had. (Takes a small box from his inner breast-pocket.) Mother, do you see this?
Mrs. Alving. What is it?
Oswald. Morphia powders.
Mrs. Alving (looking at him in terror). Oswald–my boy!
Oswald. I have twelve of them saved up–
Mrs. Alving (snatching at it). Give me the box, Oswald!
Oswald. Not yet, mother. (Puts it back in his pocket.)
Mrs. Alving. I shall never get over this!
Oswald, You must. If I had had Regina here now, I would have told her quietly how things stand with me–and asked her to give me this last helping hand. She would have helped me, I am certain.
Mrs. Alving. Never!
Oswald. If this horrible thing had come upon me and she had seen me lying helpless, like a baby, past help, past saving, past hope–with no chance of recovering–
Mrs. Alving. Never in the world would Regina have done it.
Oswald. Regina would have done it. Regina was so splendidly light-hearted. And she would very soon have tired of looking after an invalid like me.
Mrs. Alving. Then thank heaven Regina is not here!
Oswald. Well, now you have got to give me that helping hand, mother.
Mrs. Alving (with a loud scream). I!
Oswald. Who has a better right than you?
Mrs. Alving. I! Your mother!
Oswald. Just for that reason.
Mrs. Alving. I, who gave you your life!
Oswald, I never asked you for life. And what kind of a life was it that you gave me? I don't want it! You shall take it back!
Mrs. Alving. Help! Help! (Runs into the hall.)
Oswald (following her). Don't leave me! Where are you going?
Mrs. Alving (in the hall). To fetch the doctor to you, Oswald! Let me out!
Oswald (going into the hall). You shan't go out. And no one shall come in. (Turns the key in the lock.)
Mrs. Alving (coming in again). Oswald! Oswald!–my child!
Oswald (following her). Have you a mother's heart–and can bear to see me suffering this unspeakable terror?
Mrs. Alving (controlling herself, after a moment's silence). There is my hand on it.
Oswald. Will you–?
Mrs. Alving. If it becomes necessary. But it shan't become necessary: No, no–it is impossible it should!
Oswald. Let us hope so. And let us live together as long as we can. Thank you, mother.
(He sits down in the armchair, which MRS. ALVING had moved beside the couch. Day is breaking; the lamp is still burning on the table.)
Mrs. Alving (coming cautiously nearer). Do you feel calmer now?
Mrs. Alving (bending over him). It has only been a dreadful fancy of yours, Oswald. Nothing but fancy. All this upset has been bad for you. But now you will get some rest, at home with your own mother, my darling boy. You shall have everything you want, just as you did when you were a little child.–There, now. The attack is over. You see how easily it passed off! I knew it would.–And look, Oswald, what a lovely day we are going to have? Brilliant sunshine. Now you will be able to see your home properly. (She goes to the table and puts out the lamp. It is sunrise. The glaciers and peaks in the distance are seen bathed in bright morning fight.)
Oswald (who has been sitting motionless in the armchair, with his back to the scene outside, suddenly says:) Mother, give me the sun.
Mrs. Alving (standing at the table, and looking at him in amazement). What do you say?
Oswald (repeats in a dull, toneless voice). The sun–the sun.
Mrs. Alving (going up to him). Oswald, what is the matter with you? (OSWALD seems to shrink up in the chair; all his muscles relax; his face loses its expression, and his eyes stare stupidly. MRS. ALVING is trembling with terror.) What is it! (Screams.) Oswald! What is the matter with you! (Throws herself on her knees beside him and shakes him.) Oswald! Oswald! Look at me! Don't you know me!
Oswald (in an expressionless voice, as before). The sun–the sun.
Mrs. Alving (jumps up despairingly, beats her head with her hands, and screams). I can't bear it! (Whispers as though paralysed with fear.) I can't bear it... I Never! (Suddenly.) Where has he got it? (Passes her hand quickly over his coat.) Here! (Draws back a little spay and cries :) No, no, no!–Yes!–no, no! (She stands a few steps from him, her hands thrust into her hair, and stares at him in speechless terror.)
Oswald (sitting motionless, as before). The sun–the sun.
Tragedy and Liberation
By kay k. cook.
In Act Two of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts, Oswald Alving reveals the source of the illness that has brought him home to die: vermoulu. His doctor has told him, “you’ve been worm-eaten from birth” (63; the source for all quotations from this play is the Michael Meyer translation in Drama and Discussion, ed. Stanley A. Clayes, Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1978). Helene Alving thus confronts the awful truth that one’s “ghosts” cannot be laid to rest and that one’s fate cannot be avoided by prudently acquiescing to social convention. The oppressive effects of a stultifying society and of a “socialized” religion where appearances are everything has led Mrs. Alving to preserve her marriage at all costs; the terrible irony is that she learns she has preserved it at the cost of her son’s life. Her union with the philandering Captain Alving, which she endured through a sense of duty, has thus become life-taking rather than life- affirming, degenerative rather than regenerative. And, yet, her son’s revelation is both her tragedy and her liberation. It is well know that Ibsen wrote Ghosts (1881) in answer to the uproar created by A Doll’s House (1879), when the protagonist of that play, Nora Helmer, walked out on her husband and children. The last we hear of Nora is the door slamming shut as the play closes. Ibsen has suggested that in the wake of the reception of A Doll’s House, the creation of Mrs. Alving, a woman who stayed in an oppressive marriage, was inevitable. “After Nora, Mrs. Alving of necessity had to oome,” Ibsen noted (Keith May, Ibsen and Shaw, St. Martin’s Press: New York, 1985, 60). In a gesture ringing of “you asked for it,” Ibsen created the play in which “the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons”; the specific sin in this case is venereal disease.
As Ghosts opens, Mrs. Alving is preparing for the ceremonies to dedicate the orphanage she has constructed in Captain Alving’s memory, who has been dead for ten years. She has been delighted by a surprise visit from her son, a Paris artist, who has announced that he has come to spend the winter with her. Shortly after the play begins, Pastor Manders, who has overseen the official business of constructing the orphanage and who will dedicate it the following day, arrives. Pastor Manders is no stranger to the Alving household; it becomes quite clear that it was he to whom Mrs. Alving fled shortly after her marriage to Captain Alving. Manders reminds Mrs. Alving that twenty-eight years ago he dutifully sent her home to her husband: “I was able to dissuade you from your frenzied intentions. . . . It was granted to me to lead you back on to the path of duty and home to your lawful husband” (52).
During the course of the play, Mrs. Alving reveals to Pastor Manders the true nature of her marriage after she returned home. For the sake of appearance, she convinced her husband to move .to the country, where his debauched ways might be concealed, and she sent her son Oswald to boarding school so that he would never learn the truth about his father’s dissolute life. “I wanted to make sure that my own son, Oswald; should not inherit anything whatever from his father” (54). Helene Alving sacrificed herself by partaking of the drinking sessions with Alving, in the privacy of their home, and struggling with his violence as she nightly put him to bed. All the while, she took over the family business, made charitable donations in her husband’s name, and wrote to her son of his father’s philanthropic deeds.
Mrs. Alving has even been able to conceal the captain’s indiscretion of impregnating the housemaid, who is sent away with a bundle of money and whose daughter, Regina, the product of his indiscretion, has lived with, been educated by, and now serves as the maid for Mrs. Alving.
With the dedication of the orphanage, built with the exact sum that Captain Alving possessed when she married him, Helene believes that she is finally able to rid herself of the burden under which she has lived all these years; the orphanage will be the final act of atonement; the ghosts of the marriage will be put to rest.
Yet, revelation is the nature of the play, and while Manders is shocked by the revisionist history of the Alving marriage, Mrs. Alving is the one who receives the greatest shock, that of the illness of her only child. As the orphanage burns to the ground (a result of carelessness with a candle), the play proceeds toward more revelations. Oswald learns that his father led a dissolute life and that Regina, whom he had become very attracted to, is his half-sister.
The play ends shortly after Oswald has elicited a promise from his mother to administer a lethal dose of morphine to him when the disease overtakes his mind. The closing scene depicts Mrs. Alving in the throes of her anguished decision, while her son, suddenly reduced to a catatonic state, mutters again and again, “The sun, the sun.” We do not know whether Mrs. Alving will relieve her son’s misery or whether she will let him continue to live in this literally mindless state.
When Ibsen submitted Ghosts to the Danish Royal Theatre in 1881, it was rejected and was subsequently rejected and vilified by all the Scandinavian countries, until August Lindberg created a fairly well received touring production in 1883. It was launched into the rest of the world, however, amidst outrage and derision: “The critical controversy and even hostility that frequently attended the many . . . productions of Ghosts during the 1880s erupted into a veritable firestorm of denunciations and moral outrage when the play at last reached the stages of the three world capitals–Paris, London, and New York–in the nineties” (Frederick J. Marker and Lise Lone Marker, Ibsen’s Lively Art: A Performance Study of the Major Plays, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1989, 92-93).
Early critical response, then, is clouded by controversy over the appropriateness of the play’s subject matter. Directorial choices that focused on Oswald as protagonist didn’t help. Critics believed that Ibsen’s purpose was to show the ravages of venereal disease and denounced the play as filthy; performances were met with “shrieks of execration” (Marker, 92).
Added to the controversy over the perceived subject matter was Ibsen’s experimentation with dramatic form and characterization. The playwright’s innovation in acting, setting, and lighting was equally as shocking as the subject matter. Andre Antoine, for example, introduced in his 1890 production of Ghosts a “new style of acting in which, according to Emile Zola’s dictates, the actors should ‘not play, but rather live before the audience”’ (Marker, 93). Thus Ghosts’s early notoriety resulted from both form and content; audiences disconcerted with the subject matter were also disoriented by the “realism” that diminished their sense that they were watching actors playing parts. To see and hear actors who “became” their characters was shocking,
Moreover, Ibsen once again had boldly confronted “the woman question,” and, similar to the character of Nora in A Doll’s House, Helene Alving was and continues to be a source of controversy. It wasn’t long before most directors recognized her as the true protagonist of the play, and with the shift in focus from Oswald to his mother came the debate over whether Helene was cruel and calculating throughout the play or strengthened and enlightened at the end.
In his review of the criticism of the play, John Chamberlain sides with those who perceive Helene Alving as a cold controller and possessive mother: He quotes critics who describe her as “a savage predator in a horrifying world” (Hans George Meyer), and who characterize her as a “child devouring mother” (Meyer and David Thomas) (177-78). Chamberlain himself suggests that “Mrs. Alving’s most seriously negative aspects are too kindly passed over” and concludes that if she suffers with stoicism, she “may also bean almost literally murderous matriarch” (101).
The grammatical awkwardness of this last sentence suggests the extent to which Chamberlain pushes this interpretation. Moreover, the critical assessments discussed above have little basis in the play; all three critics are fairly hard pressed to put their characterizations of Mrs. Alving to the textual test. All three critics fail to consider the structure of the play, for example, which unfolds in a “Sophoclean” manner; that is, the Mrs. Alving at the beginning of the play is not the anguished mother we see at the end, just as Oedipus, having had his veil of ignorance lifted, is drastically changed. Furthermore, characterizing her as cold and calculating tends, interestingly enough, to exonerate Captain Alving, the true agent of the son’s illness. It is he who has infected the son, not the “devouring” mother. Helene Alving has made mistakes, but clearly not ones as fatal, physically or psychologically, as Captain Alving’s.
In Ghosts Mrs. Alving’s light-hearted and determined spirit progresses toward a recognition of her own culpability in the course of events that has led to her son’s illness. Seemingly indomitable as the play opens, Mrs. Alving banters with Pastor Manders, and clearly possesses the upper hand over this stuffy relic of the church, whose third sentence has something to do with “duty.”
Although he is there strictly on the business of the orphanage, Pastor Manders, upset by the “free-thinking” books Mrs. Alving has been reading, feels moved to remind her that her “fatal spirit of willfulness,” led her to disown “her duties as a wife” (52). Manders is moved to elevated religious rhetoric as he piously condemns the woman who fled to him twenty-eight years prior: “For verily Mrs. Alving, as a mother you carry a heavy burden of guilt. This I have regarded as my duty to say to you” (53).
After which Helene Alving lowers the boom, so to speak, and reveals all to the self-righteous, spiritually blinded pastor.
It is significant that these two characters are pitted against one another as the play opens, because it is through them that change, or lack thereof, is measured. That Pastor Manders has grossly misinterpreted the Alving’s relationship for twenty-eight years comes as a great shock to him, but has little impact on the way he will continue to conduct his life. Enlightenment does not bring self-knowledge. Therefore, the last we see of the good pastor is his being led blindly by Regina’s adoptive father, Engstrand, to take the funds for the now-burned orphanage and put them into a “sailor’s home,” a euphemism for nothing less than a brothel (admittedly a more fitting memorial to Captain Alving). If there is change at all in Manders, it is that he has reduced himself to the level of Engstrand. Their complicity in covering up the fact that Manders’s carelessness was the source of the accidental fire ends in their colluding to create the “sailor’s home.” The fire that destroys the orphanage has quite a different effect on Helene Alving. Occurring at the end of Act 2, it culminates the scene in which Helene has the first recognition of the complicity by keeping up appearances at all costs. Oswald has introduced to her the notion of the “joy of life,” a concept that has escaped her completely. Contrasting “here” (the oppressive Norway, the oppressive house) with “out there,” Oswald states that in Paris: “They feel it’s wonderful and glorious just to be alive. Mother have you noticed how everything I’ve painted is concerned with the joy of life . . . , light and sunshine and holiday.
That’s what makes me afraid to be here at home with you.”
Mrs. Alving. “Afraid? what are you afraid of here with me?
Oswald. “I’m afraid that everything in me will degenerate into ugliness here” (67).
It is as though Helene Alving has heard the term ‘joy’ for the first time in her life. The word strikes her on a psychic level and triggers the recognition that will allow her to strip away the facades she has been living behind. The destruction of the orphanage is then merely a tangible symbol of Mrs. Alving’s recognition that ghosts are not exorcised by erecting institutions to placate society. She tells Oswald: “You spoke of the joy of life; and that seemed to throw a new light over everything that has happened in my life. . . . [Your father] hadn’t a single friend capable of knowing what the joy of life means; only idlers and drinking companions– . . . And I didn’t bring any sunshine into his home” (70-71).
The terrible irony is that at the point Helene Alving does bring the sunshine in, symbolically and literally, her son succumbs to the illness that plagues him. Her decision of whether or not to administer the morphine is her greatest test.
Sandra Saari locates “three tests” designed to free Mrs. Alving “from the social and religious dicta of the past”: telling Oswald about the debauchery of his father, preventing an incestuous union between Regina and Oswald, and administering the lethal dose of morphine. “Her free will becomes a major consideration in the play. From this perspective, the plot concludes precisely at the moment of Mrs. Alving’s greatest existential choice” (in John S. Chamberlain, Ibsen The Open Vision, Athlone: London, 1982; 73-74).
When confronted about the characters of Nora Helmer and Mrs. Alving, Ibsen often protested that he was not consciously promoting women’s rights in his play and, in fact, wasn’t quite sure what was meant by that term; his interests, he said, were with human rights. Clearly, however, women are a subset of the category “human,” and Ibsen saw plainly the consequences to society of their oppression. In his notes to Ghosts, he writes: “These modem women, misused as daughters, as sisters, as wives, not educated according to their talents, barred from their vocation, robbed of their inheritance, their minds embittered—"
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The Critical Analysis of Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen_Part 3
By Valeriana Mulyani
Oswald Alving is the only son of Mr. Alving and Mrs. Helene Alving. He has been sent away to Paris, Italy at the age of seven by Mrs. Alving. He likes artwork, so he takes a path as a painter. Hearing that he wants to be a painter, Parson Manders has ever refused that idea. However, Oswald just does what he wants to do. He can be considered as free-thinking, as it is seen in this quotation.
Oswald. I have never noticed anything these people particularly unprincipled about these people’s lives.Manders. … it is possible for a man of any sort of bringing up, and a young woman, to renconcile themselves to such a way of living – and to make no secret of it, either! Oswald. … A poor artist, and a poor girl – it costs a good deal to get married. What else are they to do? (Act 1, Scene 1)
In this situation, Oswald and Parson Manders had an argument on people’s lives. Oswald stated that he never notices anything particularly unprincipled about people’s lives in Paris. Manders asked whether or not, it is possible for a man and a young woman to live together, and to make no secret of it, based on Oswald’s perspective. Oswald simply said that it was a good deal for a poor artist and a poor girl to get married because there was nothing they could do.From the quotation, it is seen that Oswald freely expresses what he thinks. He does not care of what people think about his perspective. He is not the type of person who likes thinking of others’ life. His freedom of thought is proved as he says that it is rightful for everyone to have a way of living they like.
At the end of the story, the real character of Oswald seems stronger. It shows how he feels at home, what he thinks about Mrs. Alving as his mother. He directly says them to his mother. Oswald is also harsh and unthankful, as it is seen in this quotation.
Oswald. Who has a better right than you? Mrs. Alving. I! Your mother! Oswald. Just for that reason. Mrs. Alving. I who gave you your life! Oswald. I never asked you for life. And what kind of a life was it that you gave me? I d on’t want it! You shall take it back! (Act 3, Scene 1)
When everything had gone from his life, Oswald started to develop his anger. He insisted his mother to give him the morphine, his helping hand. Mrs. Alving did not want to hand it over. She did not want to destroy her own son. Unexpectedly, Oswald asked her mother about who has a better right than her. Mrs. Alving loudly screamed, claimed that the person was she, his own mother, who gave him life. Oswald underestimated the reason of his mother. He strictly said that he never asked his mother for life. He did not want this life, so he asked Mrs. Alving to take it back.
Ghosts creates an arrangement of its story by providing the beginning of the story, followed by contradiction which develops into conflict. After that, it develops into rising action. Finally, it reaches the most crucial point, which is called climax. Lastly, this crisis will be resolved. 1. Exposition
The play starts when Parson Manders visits Mrs. Alving’s house to settle their business. He is welcomed by Regina, who works in Mrs. Alving’s service. Parson Manders and Mrs. Alving have a talk about the Orphanage. They discuss about the deed of conveyance, the certificate for the investment of the capital in the bank, and the interest being remarked for the current expenses of the Orphanage, as it is seen in this quotation.
Manders. It was about the Orphanage we were going to talk; quite so. Well – walk warily, dear Mrs. Alving! And now let us turn to the business in hand. (Opens an envelope and takes out some papers.) You see these? (Act 1, Scene 1)
Manders reminded Mrs. Alving about what they were going to talk. They needed to discuss some matters regarded to the Orphanage. Manders brought the file required for the Orphanage. He opened an envelope, took out some papers, and showed them to Mrs. Alving.From the quotation, it can be seen that the play starts with the discussion topic of Mr. Manders and Mrs. Alving, that is orphanage. Mr. Manders feels disturbed with their vague conversation. Therefore, he directly tells Mrs. Alving about what matters that they should talk.
As Mr. Alving and Mrs. Alving discuss about the Orphanage, Oswald returns home from Italy. Mrs. Alving asks Manders’ opinion towards Oswald. Manders welcomes him, and asks about how Oswalds live in Italy. Oswald tells his career as a painter, and describes the family life there. Afterwards, he asks their permission to go out and come back for dinner. Mrs. Alving and Manders continue their conversation. However, the topic shifts to the unhappy marriage of Mrs. Alving. When they talk, they hear a noise of a chair falling in the conservatory. Mrs. Alving realizes that the return of Oswald and the presence of Regina are ghosts, as it is seen in this quotation.
Mrs. Alving (starting in horror). Oh – ! (She stares wildly at the half-open door. Oswald is heard coughing and humming, then the sound of a bottle being uncorked.) Manders (in an agitated manner). What’s the matter? What is it, Mr. Alving? Mrs. Alving (hoarsely). Ghosts. The couple in the conservatory – over again. (Act1, Scene 1)
Mrs. Alving heard a noise from the conservatory and started to feel threatened. She was terribly shocked, so she screamed loudly. She looked at the half-opened door curiously. She heard Oswald coughing and humming, and the sound of a bottle being uncorked. Manders wondered what was going on. Mrs. Alving said there were ghosts, which refer to the couple in the conservatory. From the quotation, it can be seen that the conflict appears. Mrs. Alving starts to feel the threat of the presence of Oswald and Regina since she must endure to see what has happened in the past. That is why she feels shocked when she sees something irritated repeated at that times. She cannot bear with the presence of Oswald, which reflects Mr. Alving’s servant or mistress. Therefore, seeing Oswald and Regina in the conservatory is like seeing Mr. Alving and his mistress, Regina’s mother, in the conservatory. What is more, Regina is the illegitimate child of Mr. Alving and his mistress. It is really painful for Mrs. Alving to see her own son is being together with her husband’s illegitimate child.
3. Rising Action
Oswald tells his mother that he has a serious illness. He describes how he feels the pain. Also, how he feels terrible at home. His confession really startles Mrs. Alving. She does not know that her own son deals with a great suffer. It is not easy for her to accept the fact that his son has been living in pain, as it is seen in this quotation. Oswald. But that isn’t what is the matter. It is no ordinary fatique – Mrs. Alving (trying to get up). You are not ill, Oswald! Oswald (pulling her down again). Sit still, mother. Do take it quietly… Mrs. Alving (pale and trembling). Oswald! Look at me! No, no, it isn’t true! (Act 2, Scene 1)
Oswald claimed that he had an unusual illness. However, Mrs. Alving tried to get up as she heard this news, and then stated that he was not ill. Oswald immediately pulled her down in order to calm her, and asked her to take it quietly. Mrs. Alving asked Oswald to look at her, and repeatedly said what he had told her was not true. From the quotation, there is a contradiction between Mrs. Alving and Oswald. It can be seen that Oswald clearly states that he is sick. His mother, however, does not believe what Oswald says. There is an assumption that one who does not tell the truth cannot look at the eye of the person whom he or she talks with. That is why Mrs. Alving asks Oswald to look at her because she guesses Oswald plays a prank on her. She thinks that Oswald’s illness is a lie.
Oswald tells Mrs. Alving that he has fallen in love with Regina, and decided to marry her. Mrs. Alving strongly refuses his decision. While they converse, the fire burns the Orphanage. This interrupts their important conversation. According to Oswald, having burnt the orphanage means losing the memorial of his father. Afterwards, Oswald continues telling her mother that he needs Regina as his helper. Mrs. Alving cannot think a way to against their marriage besides telling the truth that there is a relationship between her family and Regina, as it is seen in this quotation.
Mrs. Alving. I only saw the one fact, that your father was a lost man before ever you were born. Oswald (in a choking voice). Ah – ! (He gets up and goes to the window.) Mrs. Alving. And then I had the one thought in my mind, day and night, that Regina in fact had as good a right in this house – as my own boy had. (Act 3, Scene 1)
Mrs. Alving eventually revealed the truth that her husband was a lost man before Oswald was born. Oswald suddenly went up, and walked toward the window. He did not know what he should say. Then, Mrs. Alving expressed her mind, what she always thought along day. She told both of them that Regina actually had the same right in Alving’s house as Oswald did. From the quotation, it can be seen that Mrs. Alving cannot stand with that situation. She finally decides to fight the ghosts by revealing the truth about how Mr. Alving lives, and telling them about Regina’s status, which is the child of Mr. Alving. By confessing the fact, Mrs. Alving feels that her fear will fade away.
After knowing the fact that she is the illegitimate child of Mr. Alving, Regina decides to leave the Alving’s house. Oswald is terribly depressed to know the bad side of his father, and find out that Regina is his father’s child. He thinks that her mother has taken Regina from him. He takes his morphia powders as the helping hand when Regina is not there. Mrs. Alving is surprised because of his son’s action. She tries to calm herself and her son, as it is seen in this quotation.
Mrs. Alving. …But now you will get some rest, at home with your own mother, my darling boy. Oswald…Mother, give me the sun Mrs. Alving (standing at the table, and looking at him in amazement). What do you say? Oswald (repeats in a dull, toneless voice). The sun – the sun. Mrs. Alving. … I can’t bear it! (Whispers as though as paralysed with fear.) I can’t bear it… I Never!… (Act 3, Scene 1)
Mrs. Alving ensured Oswald that he could get some rest since he was being at home with his own mother. Oswald just responded by telling his mother to give him the sun. Not getting the point of what her son has said, she stood at the table and look at him in astonishment. She asked what he has said. Oswald repeated his words in a dull and toneless voice, stated that he wanted the sun. Mrs. Alving was extremely startled, so she whispered with fear. She claimed that she could not bear it.
It is proved that Oswald is tired of knowing the fact of his father and Regina. From the quotation, Oswald does not talk much as before. It is believed that he has lost his spirit of life: His father has a wicked side, Regina has left the house, and her mother has taken his morphine. There is nothing he can expect from his life. However, one thing that he wants after everything has gone is the sun. He repeatedly asks her mother to give him the sun as if a little boy insists his mother on buying him a toy. What he means by giving him the sun is giving him warmth, calmness, and security, that he never feels at home.
< End of part 3 >