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Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen gives its audience a realistic portrayal of gender inequality and its consequences. Mrs. Helen Alving at first seems a traditional wife and mother of nineteenth-century drama. Her son finds her conventionality a bit constricting, and both Oswald and Pastor Manders admire her dead husband, Captain Alving. We find out, though, several disconcerting details. Pastor Manders persuaded Mrs. Alving not to leave her husband early in their marriage. The reason in part was that Captain Alving had an affair with a servant and fathered an illegitimate daughter, Regina. Even worse, Captain Alving passed on hereditary syphilis to his son. The more we discover, the more we sense that Mrs. Alving, far from being a weak and conventional woman, is a strong woman left on her own to fix problems created by the irresponsibility of her husband and tacit collusion of Pastor Manders.
In Regina, we also see how the role of women, in which their only way of improving their lives is by upward marriage, causes them to be complicit in their own oppression. She, like Mrs. Alving, plays the role of woman as victim and as an object of sexual desire.
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