Ghosts and Inheritance

 “The Sins of the Father”

In class we touched upon the way in which inheritance plays a significant role in the play. Oswald inherits both syphilis from his father (although technically not possible) and his sexual deviousness. Pastor Manders notes that Oswald resembles his father as he descends the stairs, smoking his father’s pipe. In effect, Oswald has inherited the “sins of his father”.

In referring to his physician’s words regarding his affliction Oswald also mentions:

OSWALD. He said, “The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.” (2.270) 

The idea that we inherit the sins of the fathers is very popular and appears in several other pieces of literature such as the Merchant of Venice:

Yes, truly, for look you, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.

It’s interesting to note what other texts (film, literature, art) contain this idea of inheritance.


The Nature of Ghosts

What are the “ghosts” Mrs. Alving keeps referring to? Are they:

1) Traditions and values that are passed from one generation to the next. These conventions are represented as ghosts, haunting those trying to be part of a more progressive world.

2) The memories kept secret (i.e. the true nature of Mr. Alving).

There are other possible interpretation of ghosts in the play. Can the ghosts be somehow related to the role disease (Syphilis) plays?

This article titled Norse Trolls and Ghosts in Ibsen examine the role trolls and ghosts play not only in Ghosts but in other works as well.


On a side note, here is a scene from Almeida’s Theatre production of Ghosts. I thought it might be interesting to see how the words on the page translate to theatre. 







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