I always have been interested in the idea of the supernatural and those that lingered behind. While reading Ibsen the vocabulary the characters decided to use in more than one occasion directed my mind to the supernatural. Oswald while talking about his affliction; “Like a living death! Mother, can you imagine anything more horrible?” (Ibsen 137) and Engstrand when he is discussing his motives “Isn’t it right and proper for a man to try and raise the fallen?”(Ibsen 131) It is apparent that this play does not contain any supernatural elements but the specific vocabulary and the name of the play invited me to give it another read, this time as if the ghosts were real!
Before diving into Ghosts again I researched 19th century Norway and the understanding of ghosts in that era. The prominence of the “ghost pictures” that recently popped up added to the social hype that surrounded the supernatural. People believed that ghosts were spirits that failed to transition into the afterlife and were bound to the mortal world. Sometimes with the will of another and sometimes by an object. The manifestations of these usually present themselves as a reenaction of a certain scene from the now fading life of the ghost.
(Taken from Megan Garber’s article “When Cameras Took Pictures of Ghosts“)
Reading the play once again with my “I See Dead People” glasses on made me realize that Mrs.Alving could actually have been a summoner of ghosts! A specific ghost, Mr.Alving in this case. Throughout the play Mrs.Alving tries to keep the situation of Mr.Alving a secret. Never sharing the “debauched” reality with anyone, bearing all the burden by herself. Sadly, her adamant attempts at trying to remove him from her life makes Mr.Alving present in every aspect of her life. The fact that Oswald smokes his father’s pipe can also add to the strength of the ghosts presenting an actual object that bounds him to mortal world. The manifestations of Mr.Alving shows himself as the terrible affliction Oswald has and more importantly in the looping events that happen between Regine and Oswald.
Even though this approach is nothing more than a farfetched supernatural reading, I think it helps us have another look at the way Mrs.Alving interacts with the world. She definitely is haunted by the memory of Mr.Alving and the burden of keeping the reality of her marriage hidden from the world.
It’s not that they actually live on in us; they are simply lodged there, and we cannot get rid of them. I’ve only to pick up a newspaper and I seem to see ghosts gliding between the lines. Over the whole country there must be ghosts, as numerous as the sands of the sea. And here we are, all of us, abysmally afraid of the light. (Ibsen 126)
Mrs.Alving might be reading between the lines, placing the ghosts there herself just to convince herself that what she has been through is shared with other people hidden from plain sight. Ghosts might not be real for other characters but it is definitely real for Mrs.Alving and regardless of Oswald’s belief in ghosts he is haunted by one.
Maybe in order to be safe they just need to salt and burn the pipe.