Ibsens Ghosts Essay

1728 words - 7 pages

? At the time when Ghosts first appeared, it was considered extremely dangerous and indecent. The themes it contains of inherited illness (siphylis, though this is never directly stated) and hypocrisy were unacceptable to the later nineteenth century audience, even to those who considered themselves liberals and had championed Ibsen's earlier plays.? The story of the play is that of a young man, who returns home from the bohemian life of an artist because he is suffering from a mysterious illness. He has been brought up abroad, and has always believed, as the world in general has believed, that his father was a pillar of the community. He begins to fall in love with his mother's maid.? His mother is extremely alarmed when she realises what is happening. She is the only one who really knows what her dead husband was like, and she knows that he was in fact the father of the serving girl. There are parallels between her past history and the story of Nora in The Dollshouse; she too tried to leave her husband, though he was far more unpleasant than Nora's. She, however, was persuaded to return by the local church minister, with whom she had sought refuge. For the sake of her son, she spent the rest of her life covering up the truth about her husband.? The story very powerfully brings out its themes, but is very much less shocking than it seemed over a hundred years ago. It is still a play which makes one think about what you really inherit from your parents, anticipating Philip Larkin's famous poem by many years.? Ibsen's Ghosts has been subjected to a succession of interpretations and re-interpretations. Like any great work of art, it has meant widely different things for different generations. It has been seen variously as a social drama of revolt, offering an outspoken challenge to the hypocrisy of late nineteenth-century European society, as a melodramatic pièce à thèse focusing attention on 0svald Alving's inherited disease and his final lapse into dementia, and, in complete contrast, as a moving tragedy showing the suffering of a mother who finds that the past cannot simply be exorcised.? Over the years critics have differed widely in their estimation of the play's merit and in their views as to what precisely the play is about. So far, however, there has been a fairly widespread degree of unanimity in critical views as to what the play is not about. Most critics have agreed that Ghosts is not primarily, if at all, a play about interaction.? There is general acceptance of the view that Ghosts, as the title would seem to indicate, is a play about action in the past. The various characters in the play, it is argued, merely react during the course of the play to a series of events and occurrences that are rooted in the past; they do not interact significantly with each other in the present.? Ghosts can also be seen as a play about one single mind defining itself against its surroundings, its own past, concentrating on the quest...

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