The Ghost Sonata Topics for Further Study
by August Strindberg

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Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

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In literature, a symbol is something that represents something else, and is often used to communicate deeper levels of meaning. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's famous novel The Scarlet Letter, for example, the red letter ''A'' worn by Hester Prynne is a symbol not only of her supposed crime (adultery), but also of her neighbors' bigotry and her own courageous pride. Strindberg incorporates many symbols into The Ghost Sonata in order to communicate deeper levels of meaning to his audiences. Consider the importance of the Old Man's wheelchair, the Girl's hyacinth flowers, and the pendulum clock as symbols in the play. What might each one represent? How are they viewed by different characters? How do they affect your understanding of the plot of the play? What are some of the play's other important symbols and how are they used?

The form of The Ghost Sonata is modeled after a particular type of chamber music. A ''sonata'' is a three- or four-part composition that consists of independent movements that vary in key, mood and tempo. Typically the first section of a sonata is exposition, in which a theme is introduced, followed by a section that develops the theme, and ending in a recapitulation of the theme. Listen to one of Mozart's many piano or violin sonatas, Haydn's sonata number 19 in D-major, or Beethoven's D-minor piano sonata and determine ways in which Strindberg's play is constructed like this chamber music form. Consider the number of scenes and the flow of action in The Ghost Sonata, as well as the play's themes and the way they are woven into the plot and ''recapitulated'' near the end.

A ''motif" is a theme or an idea that occurs again and again in a work of art. In The Ghost Sonata , death seems to be a dominant motif. What are the many ways that death is discussed, or that images of death appear in the play? What message or messages...

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