Symbolism In The Play Ghosts By Henrik Ibsen

841 words - 3 pages


In his play “Ghosts';, Ibsen forces the reader to think about his own ideas and believes, as well as those of society and past ages. Symbolism is one technique repeatedly used to portray the author’s ideas through rain, light, fire, the orphanage, Oswald, and through Engstrand himself. The use of religion is also interesting in the way the town people and Pastor Mander uses it.
     There are many symbols present throughout Ibsen’s work. Rain is used as a symbol of the cleansing of evil and impurities. Outside of Mrs. Alving’s home it remains rainy and stormy until she faces the truth about her husband. The rain washes away the disguises so that the truth may be seen. Generally when this takes place the sun, another symbol, rises, revealing the reality of the situation. Mrs. Alving said, “And there we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light'; (271). All the characters are afraid to face reality, especially Mrs. Alving, represented by the light. Fire is yet another symbol Ibsen uses. When Oswald comes downstairs with Alving’s pipe, he recalls an incident when he was given a pipe in his youth. Young Oswald smoked until he became sick. This is a foreshadowing of his illness, another sickness caused by careless actions. Another example of fire is seen when the orphanage, built in honor of Alving, is burned (287). The fire creates a symbolism that represents the truth, rising quickly and devouring all illusions. However, when the fire is extinguished, the fantasy world is up in smoke and all that remains are the painful ashes of the past.
     The orphanage is used as a subtle symbol for the illusion created by Mrs. Alving. The brothel, Captain Alving’s Home, symbolizes the reality of his life. In the end however, the truth is made known about both by the burning of the orphanage (287), and the brothel taking its place. These two actions illustrate the awakening from illusion to reality in the play. Oswald can also be seen as a main symbol. He is ignorant of the truth, giving him a false sense of innocence. He seems to have some power to stand up for his own beliefs, something his mother lacks. Oswald, is used to represent the truth of his situation which is hidden in is past. His illness and his wanting to die illustrate this idea. A final symbol used throughout the play is that of Engstrand. He represents society as a whole. Engstrand has a crippled leg; yet he says about his ethics he has “two...

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