Each family has its skeleton in the cupboard. Thus, Alving’s cupboard would have been better never to open. We meet this family on the pages of the Ghost, a famous play written by a prominent Norwegian playwriter, Henrik Ibsen. This author is known for his desire to make the world face the problems that exist in modern society.
Thus, his play, Ghost, continued to arouse issues of morality, making people plunge into consideration over the shameful facts that they are eager to hide. But when the cupboard of the modern society was overfilled with skeletons and ready to boast, Henrik Ibsen set it ajar to bring light on those dark secrets.
Though the whole play is centered on the life of one family and their inner circle of friends, it appears to be a model of modern society. All the secrets that the Alvings had to face and tried to hide are the reflection of the social problems. It became impossible to keep those “skeletons” hidden anymore. They seemed to revive in the “ghost” of Mr. Alving shameful past the invisible presence of which was spoiling the life of everyone who was connected to it.
The Ghost was regarded as “Ibsen’s greatest work. It was the play which first gave the full measure of his technical and spiritual originality and daring” in the introduction to the play itself (Ibsen 9). As for the style of the author, Georg Morris Cohen Brandes mentioned that Henrik Ibsen “is a poet who looks upon the life of the present day with the eye of a pessimist” (3).
Perhaps, the playwriter was so disappointed in the society so much that he felt that there was no way for it to get rid of its ghosts. It sank into problems and sins too much. I consider his play to be a warning against destructive processes that threaten to ruin the world.
Mrs. Alving had been keeping the secret of her husband’s true nature for so long that when she dared to reveal the truth, it appeared to be too late because she and her son’s lives had been already destroyed.
She tried to save her child, Oswald, from his father’s influence. She was afraid that he could inherit the same character and uncontrollable desire to philander. However, Oswald got a fatal disease because of his father’s lifestyle. No matter how hard Mrs. Alving tried to reduce her husband’s influence; the destiny decided quite the opposite and gave a blow, she could not return.
Mr. Alving’s dark past interfered in all spheres of the family’s life. Mrs. Alving tried to build an orphanage as a tribute to her husband and as a try to atone his sins. But “Mrs. Alving’s attempt to burry Alving’s evil influence under a monument of hypocrisy” (Northam 100) did not succeed because the building was burned down. It seems that the ghost of Mr. Alving did not want to be forgotten, and the truth was eager to reveal. It would be a pretense to glorify a person who was not worthy of it.
This play is a great example of not only the moral problems in the society but of a generation gap, a failure of fathers and children to understand one another. We face the conflict between Regina, Mr. Alving’s illegitimate daughter, and her step-father Mr. Engstrand on the first pages of the Ghost that reveals this problem as well as true two-faced nature of this girl.
The tragedy of the situation was deepened with the fact that Oswald and Regina fell in love with each other. Thus, I suppose Ibsen tried to show the whole fatality of the situation and necessity to end the sufferings of the main characters.
However, the play ends abruptly when Mrs. Alving is looking for a fatal dose of morphine to her son, who lost his mind because of his disease. I see it as a sign that social problems will never be solved, and there is no salvation of them. Thus, this agony will be eternal. Moral issues, their destructive influence, and generation problems revealed in the Ghost made this play an awful reflection of the contemporary world.
Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen. Henrik Ibsen: Björnstjerne Björnson. Critical studies. London: W. Heinemann, 1899. Print.
Ibsen, Henrik. Ghosts, a family tragedy in three acts. London : S. French, 1938. Print.
Northam, John. Ibsen: a critical study. New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Print.