When researching about the symptoms for congenital neurosifilis it caught my attention that most of the information was relevant for children below 2 years of age. However, the symptoms associated with Oswald’s age were “unexplained deafness, progressive intellectual deterioration or keratitis” (a condition in which the cornea becomes inflamed and eyesight is affected); these fit with the character’s behaviour at the end of the play, when he appears to have lost lucidity and his mother is devastated by the sight of her sick son.
Linking this with our discussion about punishment from Monday’s class, the deterioration of Oswald’s senses is a punishment for him because he won’t be able to pursue his profession as an artist; but most importantly, it interferes with his ideology of the joy of life, originally “Livsglede” in Norwegian. He explains his interpretation of this term to his mother in page 144:
“But people elsewhere simply won’t have that. Nobody really believes in ideas of that sort any more. In other countries they think it’s tremendous fun just to be alive at all. Mother, have you noticed how everything I’ve ever painted has turned on this joy of life? Always and without exception, this joy of life. Light and sunshine and a holiday spirit…and radiantly happy faces. That’s why I’m frightened to stay at home with you.”
Oswald’s last conscious thoughts, in which he repeats the image of the sun, now seem as longing calls for the happiness he wasn’t able to attain in life due to being distanced from his parents and not developing love for them or any other human. The gloomy weather which he describes in page 140 can be seen as an example of pathetic fallacy, reflecting his grief at the lack of love, the terror and guilt towards his disease and the sense of betrayal from his mother. His opportunities of simplistic joy fade away; he would have no more joy of life.