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by Henrik Ibsen

Ghosts Theme of Memory and the Past

We can tell from the title of Ghosts that the past may play a role here. The spooky, creaky Alving house is collapsing under the weight of the past. There's a memory of a misbehaving father, compounded by Mrs. Alving's memory of every lie she had to tell to keep his real life a secret. Mrs. Alving wants to bury the past, but when her son returns with the past in his body, her mission changes. Instead of a final burial of her husband, Mrs. Alving facilitates an enormous recovery of the memory of his life. Her new understanding of her husband's life-loving nature – and her role in repressing it – transforms her understanding of herself.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Does Engstrand fear any incriminating ghosts from the past?
  2. How do the younger characters differ from the older in terms of their relationships to memory?
  3. Is Oswald affected by Mrs. Alving's transformed vision of her husband? If so, how?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Through the process of facing her son's unwelcome resemblance to his father, Mrs. Alving rehabilitates Captain Alving's memory.

In Ghosts, the past is always present.

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