By Valeriana Mulyani

Oswald Alving


Oscar Pearce as Oswald Irving in Ghosts. Photograph: Octagon
Oscar Pearce as Oswald Irving in Ghosts. Photograph: Octagon

Oswald Alving is the only son of Mr. Alving and Mrs. Helene Alving. He has been sent away to Paris, Italy at the age of seven by Mrs. Alving. He likes artwork, so he takes a path as a painter. Hearing that he wants to be a painter, Parson Manders has ever refused that idea. However, Oswald just does what he wants to do. He can be considered as free-thinking, as it is seen in this quotation.

Oswald. I have never noticed anything these people particularly unprincipled about these people’s lives.Manders. … it is possible for a man of any sort of bringing up, and a young woman, to renconcile themselves to such a way of living – and to make no secret of it, either!
Oswald. … A poor artist, and a poor girl – it costs a good deal to get married. What else are they to do? (Act 1, Scene 1)

In this situation, Oswald and Parson Manders had an argument on people’s lives. Oswald stated that he never notices anything particularly unprincipled about people’s lives in Paris. Manders asked whether or not, it is possible for a man and a young woman to live together, and to make no secret of it, based on Oswald’s perspective. Oswald simply said that it was a good deal for a poor artist and a poor girl to get married because there was nothing they could do.From the quotation, it is seen that Oswald freely expresses what he thinks. He does not care of what people think about his perspective. He is not the type of person who likes thinking of others’ life. His freedom of thought is proved as he says that it is rightful for everyone to have
a way of living they like.

At the end of the story, the real character of Oswald seems stronger. It shows how he feels at home, what he thinks about Mrs. Alving as his mother. He directly says them to his mother. Oswald is also harsh and unthankful, as it is seen in this quotation.

Oswald. Who has a better right than you?
Mrs. Alving. I! Your mother!
Oswald. Just for that reason.
Mrs. Alving. I who gave you your life!
Oswald. I never asked you for life. And what kind of a life was it that you gave me? I d on’t want it! You shall take it back! (Act 3, Scene 1)

When everything had gone from his life, Oswald started to develop his anger. He insisted his mother to give him the morphine, his helping hand. Mrs. Alving did not want to hand it over. She did not want to destroy her own son. Unexpectedly, Oswald asked her mother about who has a better right than her. Mrs. Alving loudly screamed, claimed that the person was she, his own mother, who gave him life. Oswald underestimated the reason of his mother. He strictly said that he never asked his mother for life. He did not want this life, so he asked Mrs. Alving to take it back.


all the major characters on stage. Photograph:
all the major characters on stage. Photograph:

Ghosts creates an arrangement of its story by providing the beginning of the story, followed by contradiction which develops into conflict. After that, it develops into rising action. Finally, it reaches the most crucial point, which is called climax. Lastly, this crisis will be resolved.1. Exposition

The play starts when Parson Manders visits Mrs. Alving’s house to settle their business. He is welcomed by Regina, who works in Mrs. Alving’s service. Parson Manders and Mrs. Alving have a talk about the Orphanage. They discuss about the deed of conveyance, the certificate for the investment of the capital in the bank, and the interest being remarked for the current expenses of the Orphanage, as it is seen in this quotation.

Manders. It was about the Orphanage we were going to talk; quite so. Well – walk warily, dear Mrs. Alving! And now let us turn to the business in hand. (Opens an envelope and takes out some papers.) You see these? (Act 1, Scene 1)

Manders reminded Mrs. Alving about what they were going to talk. They needed to discuss some matters regarded to the Orphanage. Manders brought the file required for the Orphanage. He opened an envelope, took out some papers, and showed them to Mrs. Alving.From the quotation, it can be seen that the play starts with the discussion topic of Mr. Manders and Mrs. Alving, that is orphanage. Mr. Manders feels disturbed with their vague conversation. Therefore, he directly tells Mrs. Alving about what matters that they should talk.

2. Conflict

As Mr. Alving and Mrs. Alving discuss about the Orphanage, Oswald returns home from Italy. Mrs. Alving asks Manders’ opinion towards Oswald. Manders welcomes him, and asks about how Oswalds live in Italy. Oswald tells his career as a painter, and describes the family life there. Afterwards, he asks their permission to go out and come back for dinner. Mrs. Alving and Manders continue their conversation. However, the topic shifts to the unhappy marriage of Mrs. Alving. When they talk, they hear a noise of a chair falling in the conservatory. Mrs. Alving realizes that the return of Oswald and the presence of Regina are ghosts, as it is seen in this quotation.

Mrs. Alving (starting in horror). Oh – !
(She stares wildly at the half-open door. Oswald is heard coughing and humming, then the sound of a bottle being uncorked.)
Manders (in an agitated manner). What’s the matter? What is it, Mr. Alving?
Mrs. Alving (hoarsely). Ghosts. The couple in the conservatory – over again. (Act1, Scene 1)

Mrs. Alving heard a noise from the conservatory and started to feel threatened. She was terribly shocked, so she screamed loudly. She looked at the half-opened door curiously. She heard Oswald coughing and humming, and the sound of a bottle being uncorked. Manders wondered what was going on. Mrs. Alving said there were ghosts, which refer to the couple in the conservatory.
From the quotation, it can be seen that the conflict appears. Mrs. Alving starts to feel the threat of the presence of Oswald and Regina since she must endure to see what has happened in the past. That is why she feels shocked when she sees something irritated repeated at that times. She cannot bear with the presence of Oswald, which reflects Mr. Alving’s servant or mistress. Therefore, seeing Oswald and Regina in the conservatory is like seeing Mr. Alving and his mistress, Regina’s mother, in the conservatory. What is more, Regina is the illegitimate child of Mr. Alving and his mistress. It is really painful for Mrs. Alving to see her own son is being together with her husband’s illegitimate child.

3. Rising Action

Oswald tells his mother that he has a serious illness. He describes how he feels the pain. Also, how he feels terrible at home. His confession really startles Mrs. Alving. She does not know that her own son deals with a great suffer. It is not easy for her to accept the fact that his son has been living in pain, as it is seen in this quotation.
Oswald. But that isn’t what is the matter. It is no ordinary fatique –
Mrs. Alving (trying to get up). You are not ill, Oswald!
Oswald (pulling her down again). Sit still, mother. Do take it quietly…
Mrs. Alving (pale and trembling). Oswald! Look at me! No, no, it isn’t true! (Act 2, Scene 1)

Oswald claimed that he had an unusual illness. However, Mrs. Alving tried to get up as she heard this news, and then stated that he was not ill. Oswald immediately pulled her down in order to calm her, and asked her to take it quietly. Mrs. Alving asked Oswald to look at her, and repeatedly said what he had told her was not true. From the quotation, there is a contradiction between Mrs. Alving and Oswald. It can be seen that Oswald clearly states that he is sick. His mother, however, does not believe what Oswald says. There is an assumption that one who does not tell the truth cannot look at the eye of the person whom he or she talks with. That is why Mrs. Alving asks Oswald to look at her because she guesses Oswald plays a prank on her. She thinks that Oswald’s illness is a lie.

4. Climax

Oswald tells Mrs. Alving that he has fallen in love with Regina, and decided to marry her. Mrs. Alving strongly refuses his decision. While they converse, the fire burns the Orphanage. This interrupts their important conversation. According to Oswald, having burnt the orphanage means losing the memorial of his father. Afterwards, Oswald continues telling her mother that he needs Regina as his helper. Mrs. Alving cannot think a way to against their marriage besides telling the truth that there is a relationship between her family and Regina, as it is seen in this quotation.

Mrs. Alving. I only saw the one fact, that your father was a lost man before ever you were born.
Oswald (in a choking voice). Ah – ! (He gets up and goes to the window.)
Mrs. Alving. And then I had the one thought in my mind, day and night, that Regina in fact had as good a right in this house – as my own boy had. (Act 3, Scene 1)

Mrs. Alving eventually revealed the truth that her husband was a lost man before Oswald was born. Oswald suddenly went up, and walked toward the window. He did not know what he should say. Then, Mrs. Alving expressed her mind, what she always thought along day. She told both of them that Regina actually had the same right in Alving’s house as Oswald did.
From the quotation, it can be seen that Mrs. Alving cannot stand with that situation. She finally decides to fight the ghosts by revealing the truth about how Mr. Alving lives, and telling them about Regina’s status, which is the child of Mr. Alving. By confessing the fact, Mrs. Alving feels that her fear will fade away.

5. Resolution

After knowing the fact that she is the illegitimate child of Mr. Alving, Regina decides to leave the Alving’s house. Oswald is terribly depressed to know the bad side of his father, and find out that Regina is his father’s child. He thinks that her mother has taken Regina from him. He takes his morphia powders as the helping hand when Regina is not there. Mrs. Alving is surprised because of his son’s action. She tries to calm herself and her son, as it is seen in this quotation.

Mrs. Alving. …But now you will get some rest, at home with your own mother, my darling boy.
Oswald…Mother, give me the sun
Mrs. Alving (standing at the table, and looking at him in amazement). What do you say?
Oswald (repeats in a dull, toneless voice). The sun – the sun.
Mrs. Alving. … I can’t bear it! (Whispers as though as paralysed with fear.) I can’t bear it… I Never!… (Act 3, Scene 1)

Mrs. Alving ensured Oswald that he could get some rest since he was being at home with his own mother. Oswald just responded by telling his mother to give him the sun. Not getting the point of what her son has said, she stood at the table and look at him in astonishment. She asked what he has said. Oswald repeated his words in a dull and toneless voice, stated that he wanted the sun. Mrs. Alving was extremely startled, so she whispered with fear. She claimed that she could not bear it.

It is proved that Oswald is tired of knowing the fact of his father and Regina. From the quotation, Oswald does not talk much as before. It is believed that he has lost his spirit of life: His father has a wicked side, Regina has left the house, and her mother has taken his morphine. There is nothing he can expect from his life. However, one thing that he wants after everything has gone is the sun. He repeatedly asks her mother to give him the sun as if a little boy insists his mother on buying him a toy. What he means by giving him the sun is giving him warmth, calmness, and security, that he never feels at home.

< End of part 3 >