By Valeriana Mulyani

Picture courtesy of
Picture courtesy of

Ghosts is a domestic tragedy play by Henrik Ibsen. This play was written and published in 1881. However, it was not performed until May 1882 due to controversy towards the word “Ghosts”. The translator William Archer wanted to use the word “Ghosts”. On the other hand, the Norwegian “Gengangere” is more exactly translated as “The Revenants”, which means “The Ones who Return”. From the title itself, this play has shown its appealing side. Ghosts deserves to be observed and analyzed since it provides knowledge about life by showing the characters’ perception towards temptation of the world, happiness, joy of life, and fear, which certainly owned and experienced by human beings. This play is frequently deemed to be scandalous because it raises topics related to moral issue, such as having an affair, and having an illegitimate child.

Henrik Ibsen - The courtesy of : The
Henrik Ibsen – The courtesy of : The

The playwright of Ghosts is Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright and poet. He is well-known as a father of Modern Theatre as well as the father of realism, who has affected other playwrights and novelists such as George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, James Joyce, Eugene O’Neill, and Miroslav Krleža. Henrik Ibsen was born on March 20th 1828 in Skien, Norway. His father, Knud Ibsen, was a rich merchant, while his mother, Marichen Alternbug, was a daughter of a rich merchant in Skien. During his childhood, he experienced discouragement. Having a rumor that he was an illegitimate of another man influences his works. He began his career in the year 1851, when his first drama, The Burial Mound, was performed. His plays are considered to be controversial, such as A Doll’s House (1879), Ghosts (1881), and An Enemy of the People (1882).

This play raises issue related to domestic life. There are several important issues to be analyzed in this paper. First of all, it will clarify what Ghosts actually means in this drama, or what the word “Ghosts” refers to. Secondly, it will explain the hidden intention of Mrs.Alving’s building an orphanage as a memorial of her husband. Thirdly, it will describe how Mrs.Alving lives with her family, and express the idea of why she sends her child to another country since he was still seven. Lastly, it will discuss the playwright’s thought based on some views on the statement expressed by the characters.

Characters and Characterization

In Ghosts, there are five characters, namely Mrs. Alving (a widow), Oswald Alving ( Mrs. Alving’s son, an artist), Parson Manders (the pastor of the Parish), Engstrand (a carpenter), and Regina Engstrand ( Engstrand’s daughter, as well as a maid of Mrs. Alving). Actually, there is one more character, called Mr. Alving, who is Mrs. Helene Alving’s husband. His name is just mentioned in this drama since the character has already died.

Major Character

There are three characters who are dominant in this play: Helene Alving, Mrs. Alving’s wife; Parson Manders, pastor of Parish as well as a friend of Mr. Alving; and Oswald Alving, the only son of Mr. Alving and Mrs. Helene Alving. Here is the characterization of the three major characters, supported by quotations.

Helene Alving

Helena Alving character. Courtesy :
Helena Alving character. Courtesy :

Mrs. Helene Alving is a middle-aged woman, and the wife of Mr. Alving. She has been a widow for ten years, after her husband died. She has an only child, named Oswald Alving. She sends his only child at the age of seven because of a hidden reason. She has anxiety that she could not speak for years. She is described to have an unhappy marriage. She has ever ran away from her husband and refused to return. The circumstance of her marriage leads her to be low self-esteem, as it is seen in this quotation.

Mrs. Alving. Yes, am I not a lucky woman! It is more than two years since he was home last, and he has promised to stay the whole winter with me. (Act 1, scene 1)

Mrs. Alving said that she was not a lucky woman. She had no one at home. Oswald had not come home for more than two years. However, her son had promised to spend his whole winter with her.

>End of Part 1<