"Duty" is a word repeated over and over in Ghosts. Everyone has duties related to the role they play in the society. The wife/mother is duty-bound to protect her husband's reputation (no matter how unsavory he is) and to sacrifice everything for her son. In return the son must love his mother. The maid is duty-bound to clean up everyone's mess – no matter how colossal it is. The Pastor is duty-bound to regulate everyone else's fulfillment of their duty. No wonder these people seem so dour. All this responsibility is exhausting and keeps them from being themselves.
Questions About Duty
- Do you believe Mrs. Alving was right to keep her husband's true nature from her son? Ibsen seems to have an opinion, but what do you think?
- Is it OK to shrug off familial duty? Under what circumstances might it be OK?
- In this play, do the lower-class characters have a different concept of duty than the upper-class characters? How so?
Chew on This
Pastor Manders represents a necessary duty-bound segment of society?
In her last scenes with Oswald, Mrs. Alving fulfills the accusations of self-interest Pastor Manders made in Act 1.