Just before writing Ghosts, Ghosts he wrote A Dolls House about a young woman seeking to escape the bonds of duty. While the classic feminist story in A Dolls House has a hint of hope for Nora Helmer, who decides to speak up for her own rights as a woman and as a human being, Ghosts seems to me to be the gloomy alternative, as Mrs Alving overcomes years of subordination to her immoral (and now deceased) husband. The woman, Nora, desires to free herself intellectually by breaking out of a marriage. Ghosts, in many ways, is an extension of A Dolls House, with the main character Mrs.
Alving acting as a future Nora. They are similar in some ways, but obviously they are both uniquely diverse. They play many of the same roles in their plays, and are probably the most similar two characters between Ghosts and A Dolls House. As literary critic Edward Boyer puts it, In many ways Mrs. Alving is an older and more mature Nora, freer yet at the same time more bound. She too wanted to break out of a marriage once, but was sent back to her duties by Pastor Manders, who thereby awakened the first doubts in her mind about transmitted doctrine. Ibsen focused his pieces on commenting on the often hypocritical sense of duty that people of his time supported. In his own words, Ghosts had to be written; I could not let the dolls house be my last word; after Nora, Mrs. Alving had to come. Duty prompted her to create a life of lies, as she hid her husbands alcoholism and other immoral acts. Duty prompted her to hide her husbands pregnant mistress, and again to raise his daughter as her own. Even the names Ibsen gives the two women show the difference of hope in the two plays.
In A Dolls House, Nora is given a first name, and in fact she is listed by her first name in the written script whenever she speaks. In Ghosts, Mrs. Alving is seldom called by her first name (it is Helen), and rather is referred to as Mrs. Alving in the script when she has a line to say. She is regarded only as a wife, even ten years after her husbands death. Ibsen utilizes many parallels between situations and characters in order to portray the desired results of duty and the actual results. Mrs. Alving can be compared to Mr.
Engstrand, a hobbling old carpenter, and supposed father of Regina. Mrs. Alving is, obliged by her sense of duty, trying to gain control of her son Oswald upon his return home, while Engstrand attempts to evoke his daughters sense of duty so that she will come to work for him. According to George Meyer, This parallel is¦important because in the one case a father is trying to gain control of his daughter; in the other a mother, of her son. Both characters also experienced a commercial marriage in that Mrs.
Alving married Captain Alving for the sum of his fortune, and Engstrand married his wife Johanna for a hefty bribe. Nora is a unique character, a kind not usually seen in most plays. She swings her mood often; she is either very happy or very depressed, comfortable or desperate, wise or naive. At the beginning of the play, Nora still plays a child in many ways, listening at doors and eating forbidden sweets behind her husbands back. She has gone straight from her fathers house to her husbands, bringing along her nursemaid which tells us that she hasnt really grown up.
She also doesnt have much of an own opinion. She has always accepted her fathers and her husbands opinions. Shes aware that Torvald would have no use for a wife who was equal to him. But like many children, Nora knows how to manipulate Torvald by pouting or by performing for him. In the end, it is the truth about her marriage that awakens Nora. Although she may suspect that Torvald is a weak, petty man, she believes that he is strong, that hell protect her from the consequences of her actions. Then, at the moment of truth, he abandons her completely.
She is shocked into reality and sees how fake their relationship has been. She realizes that her father and her husband have seen her as a doll, a toy to be played with, a figure without opinion or will of her own. She also realizes that she is treating her children the same way. Her whole life has been based on illusion rather than reality. Although she tried to escape from her marriage, the young Mrs. Alving apparently did not have a sudden moment of realization of her duties to herself, her own honor, or her own pride. If she did, we are not told hem; she continued to live as her husband and as society expected her to. By the end of Ghosts, however, when the effects of her husbands life of duplicity are clear, the older and wiser Mrs. Alving has obviously come to regret her silence. Boyer states, She sees now that it was the limiting conditions, the lack of true joy, a goal in life, and meaningful work which destroyed the best in her husband. She sees too that she herself was the immediate cause of his ruin, because she had made life intolerable for him with her conventional morality of duty. Mrs. Alving cant be blamed for staying in her marriage though. In A Dolls House, Nora Helmer had a place to escape to. Her friend Mrs Linde would eagerly provide a place to stay and her best friend Doctor Rank had invited her company, and expressed his love for her. The conclusion drawn up by the end is this: the embracing and enforcing of a corrupt sense of duty and false pride by the collection of characters has led to the successful projects-chaos and dismay.
This symbolizes Ibsens conception of duty and double standard for men and women in the society. He believes that mankind has taken it too far, and duty has degenerated love into a purchasable commodity as illustrated by not only the brothel but by Mrs. Alvings and Engstrands commercial marriages. The free-thinking duty-free artists of Paris live happy lives in wholesome homes, while the duty-supporting end up in broken homes where hypocrisy and immorality run rampant.