Comment on the representation of women in Ghosts by Ibsen. 

In Ibsen's Ghosts, women are represented as strong characters who are nevertheless constricted by the gender norms of nineteenth-century Norway. Helen Alving initially leaves her unfaithful husband, then returns to him to take his place as head of the household. Regina Engstrand is a servant who marries a man of a higher class only to suffer an identity crisis.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The female characters in Ibsen's Ghosts depart from existing gender norms to a considerable extent. The most important character in this regard would be the protagonist, Helen Alving. At an early stage in her marriage, Helen makes the decision to leave her unfaithful husband, Captain Alving. This doesn't sound particularly radical in this day and age, but in nineteenth-century Norway, it was considered nothing short of scandalous.

At that time and in that place, women were expected to be submissive to their menfolk and do as they were told. The prevailing double standard held that male infidelity was to be tolerated so long as it was kept firmly under wraps and that wives had no choice but to put up with it.

But Helen's not prepared to accept this, at least not up to a certain point. For although Helen does indeed leave her cheating husband, she goes back to him on the advice of Pastor Manders, who's every bit as committed to the norms and values of patriarchal society as Captain Alving.


(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1063 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team