Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Pastor Manders calls on Mrs. Helen Alving on the eve of the tenth anniversary of her husband’s death to discuss certain details concerning the opening of an orphanage in memory of her late husband. The pastor finds Mrs. Alving in the best of spirits, for her son Oswald, an artist, has returned from Paris to attend the dedication of the memorial to his father. Oswald, now twenty-six, has lived away from his parents since he was seven, and Mrs. Alving is delighted at the prospect of having her son spend the entire winter with her.
Oswald idealizes his father, for in her letters his mother portrays Captain Alving as a sort of hero. The boy’s own memories of his father are confined to one incident in his childhood when his father took him on his knee and encouraged him to smoke a large meerschaum pipe. Upon his return home, Oswald takes a certain pride in lighting up his father’s old pipe and parading in front of his mother and Pastor Manders.
Pastor Manders does not approve of smoking; in fact, he does not approve of anything that can even loosely be interpreted as sin. He does not approve of Oswald’s bohemian way of life in Paris and blames Mrs. Alving for her son’s ideas. He reminds Mrs. Alving that she came to him scarcely one year after having married, wanting to leave her husband, and that he sent her back to her duty. Pastor Manders considers this act the greatest moral victory of his life.
Mrs. Alving thinks it high...
(The entire section is 908 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Ghosts Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Ghosts takes place in the library of the country house of Helena Alving, a wealthy widow. It opens with Mrs. Alving’s maid, Regina Engstrand, being visited by Jacob Engstrand, who often reminds her that he is her father, although she seems to doubt it—he tells her that the church register can prove it. Engstrand has been working nearby as a carpenter, helping to build an orphanage, and when he returns to town, he wants Regina to go with him because he plans on using the money he has earned to open a boarding house for sailors and a tavern; and he wants a woman around: ‘‘But there must be a petticoat in the house. . . . For I want to have it a little lively in the evenings, with singing and dancing, and so forth.’’ When Engstrand leaves, Pastor Manders enters. Engstrand has confided with the pastor about the drunken life he has led, and the pastor supports his new plan and thinks that Regina should be supportive of her father.
Mrs. Alving enters and discusses the plans of the orphanage with the pastor, who is her financial advisor. She is building the orphanage as a memorial to her late husband, who was an honored member of the community. The pastor suggests that the orphanage not be insured, because insuring it might make people doubt her trust in God.
Mrs. Alving’s son Oswald, a painter, enters. He shocks the pastor with talk about couples living together and having children in Paris, where he has recently...
(The entire section is 950 words.)