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“Ghosts” vs. “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen


Ghosts were written in eighteen eighty-one as a scathing commentary on nineteenth-century fatalities. The two plays were sensational and often regarded as being indecent. Ghost and a Doll’s House criticized contemporary Norwegian society. A Doll’s House is an earlier play than Ghosts written in 1879 during the European revolution and challenges the nineteenth-century contemporary ideologies and marriage practices. It tackles the issue of women’s rights and the need for self-recognition/ discovery. Similar to the Ghost, it was termed as indecent and scandalous in contemporary society. The play addresses the story of a rich woman who wishes to come to the aid of her impoverished husband but she instead suffers in return

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Comparative article

The marriages in both plays are depicted as full of deceptions. The Ghost addresses the encounter of a wealthy widow, Helen Alving who wants to open an orphanage for remembrance of her deceased husband, captain Alving during the 10th anniversary of his demise. Regina Engstrand is visited by Jacob Engstrand, the supposed father who lies that the evidence lies in the church records. Engstrand was a neighboring carpenter who was one of the orphanage builders.

Helen constructs the orphanage to exhaust the husband’s finances for her son, Oswald Alving not to have any inheritance from the father. When she abandoned her marriage due to various difficulties, the pastor had directed her to be with her husband irrespective of the philandering from her husband. Consequently, she adhered to the counsel believing that her husband would undergo reformation due to her love and affection.

She also becomes aware of her son’s condition, who has returned from Paris. She had distanced him from his father not to be morally influenced. This did not work as evidenced by Oswald telling the pastor of cohabitation in Paris where the pastor counsels on Helen to become a good parent. Moreover, he had contracted a venereal disease, syphilis, and was dying from it. Besides, he was having an affair with her house mistreats Regina Engstrand. Thus, Helen has to disclose that Regina was his half-sister thus refusing the incestuous relationship. Oswald desires to be euthanized by taking morphine pills, which he asks from his mother

Women in both plays safeguard the welfare of their husbands at the expense of their happiness, which compromises the children’s welfare. Helen’s husband was a prominent man in society and her building the memorial for the society to honor him. Unfortunately, Captain Alvin would not stop cheating and philandering, until he died thus, soiling his reputation. Helen could not abandon her husband due to the fear of the societal perceptions towards her, which she feared of violating and therefore be discriminated against. Women are portrayed as immature and submissive to men and persevere torture and misery in her marriage.

Helen sticks in an abusive marriage for the sake of society and her son, which she pays dearly. She is immature since she persists in many years of an abusive marriage. She desires her son to be happy through unorthodox means, supporting his Bohemian ideologies, his artistic abilities. Helen conceals her husband’s family secrets of immorality, drunkenness in marriage for him to gain a benevolent reputation from society.

On the same note, in A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer engages in illegal activities as forgery to be her husband, Torvald savior. Torvald is morally upright, honest, and is admired by many as a family man as she is worshipped by his wife. She sacrifices her happiness for the sake of the husband and children. She in turn faces blackmail since she wants to save her marriage and career. Irresponsible marriage leads to her suffering.

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Dolls House handles Nora’s awakening from prior matrimonial experiences. She had remained submissive to her father as well as her husband, which makes her question her values once the marriage is tested. Nora had borrowed financial aid from Krogstad, who is a man whose morals are not upright through forging the signature of her father. As a result, she financed the Italy trip to redeem the ailing husband who was not aware of the deal.

From this time, Nora had to work hard to repay the money. Helen uses her feminine tricks to stop her husband from reading the note in the letterbox. Torvald declares his love for Nora but this changes after reading the letter. He becomes furious and accuses her of destroying his life and reputation and threatens to abandon her. Krogstad writes a note to Nora and Torvald is happy to read it stating that it’s over and that he has been forgiven her.

Parental role in family upbringing is further revealed by Krogstad, who is described as “early corruption generally comes from the mother’s side, but of course, the father’s influence may act in the same way. And this Krogstad has been poisoning his children for years past by a life of lies and hypocrisy–that’s why I call him morally ruined.” (Ibsen ‘A Doll’s House’ 25)

In the Ghosts, women are seen as subject to men. Engstrand wants to take Regina Engstrand with him in town stating that “But there must be a petticoat in the house…. For I want to have it a little life in the evenings, with singing and dancing, and so forth’’ (Ibsen ‘Ghosts’ 14). Besides, Helen informs her spiritual and financial mentor Pastor Manders that she has concealed bad aspects regarding her matrimonial life. He recommends that the orphanage should not be covered by insurance, since the public may question the trust she has in God. Additionally, Oswald wished to marry Regina for her to nurse him in the course of her condition.

In A Doll’s House, Torvald attains a higher rank in his career as a bank manager, which empowers him and he gains more wealth. Nora is happy because she might be in a position to repay the money but Krogstad continues to blackmail her since his position is now awarded to Mrs. Linde a friend of Nora whom they had schooled together. He claims to reveal the secret if she won’t convince Torvald to let him keep his job. She tries fruitlessly to convince her husband with her feminist tactics where her husband claims that the man is morally corrupt.

The women in the plays are seen as having a self-discovery. In the Ghosts, Helen seeks happiness by initially abandoning her marriage, seeking romance from the pastor, who remains loyal and sends her back home. She realizes the fatal mistake she had made in marriage. His son is now paralyzed and unable to work due to a bad marriage that influences the child who loses the meaning of life. A Doll’s House, Nora becomes preoccupied and worried as she contemplates suicide.

She talks with Dr. Rank who confesses his love before she borrows money from him. Krogstad’s appearance in the house is disturbing but Nora is relieved of hearing that he has changed his mind but wants to persuade Torvald to let him work, which Nora is against as he leaves the note. Nora decides to leave her husband since she has seen his real traits, stating that he has no love for her but only cares for his publicity and will love him no more. She maintains that her life has been depressing but decides to become self-independent, willing to discover the world and herself. She however hopes for real matrimony and not a faked one.

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Ghosts and A Doll’s House handles the social and revolutionary issues that existed in society. The Ghost talks of issues like illegitimacy, deception, venereal disease, the issue of incest, infidelity, and euthanasia. These are taboo topics that are referred to as ghosts whose public discussion was questionable as ascertained by King Oscar II during an evening to honor the writer, in Royal Palace in Stockholm stating that the play was not good. A Doll’s House tackles socio-economic constraints in a marriage which compromises the family relations.

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. New York: Forgotten Books, 2008. Print.

Ibsen, Henrik. Ghosts: a family tragedy in three acts. New York: Plain Label Books. 1925. Print.

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