Ghosts Study Guide

Ghosts Study Guide

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Ghosts was a very controversial play for its time, touching such delicate topics as venereal diseases, marital infidelity, incest and euthanasia. The audience of Ibsen’s time was shocked by the openly shown sins of the society, but still, despite being so morally dubious, the play was a great success. It touched the problems of the society everyone was aware of, but no one dared to speak about before.

It features the classical plot turns of tragedy: fatal flaws and dramatic irony, fateful coincidences that ruin the lives of everyone involved, but also Ghosts is the play about human psychology. We see Helen Alving, a deeply traumatized woman, who stayed with her cheating and abusing husband, maintaining a shiny facade, due to intense victimblaming and gaslighting from her husband, Captain Alving and her priest. She does everything to preserve the honor of the family, but the woman is incapable to love her son as much as she wanted to. The only thing that she can do for him is to send him away to preserve young Oswald from the corrupting influence of his father. But then she learns that Oswald inherited something hideous from his father, a trait he isn’t guilty of having, but even despite his innocence this trait is no less deadly and repulsive.

Helen is unable to leave anything to her son and decides to spend all her money to the charity project - a big orphanage. She tells that she does it in memory of her husband, but her real intention is to get cleared of her previous life and to not let her son inherit the possessions of his father and become new Captain Alving. Pastor Mandels, her priest and (quite poisonous) only friend continues to give her advice...

The main storyline features another tragic story, of Oswald, his beloved and his grim fate, but we can be sure that every single dream will be thoroughly shattered in the end.

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