The title “Ghosts” is highly significant to Henrik Ibsen’s play of the same name. The play is a searing critique of Victorian society, its rigid moral codes, and the hypocrisies that underpinned it. The title “Ghosts” operates on multiple levels, both literal and metaphorical, and serves to underscore the play’s themes and ideas.
On a literal level, the title “Ghosts” refers to the spectral presence of Captain Alving, the deceased husband of the play’s central character, Mrs. Alving. Although Captain Alving never appears on stage, his presence is felt throughout the play, and he is frequently referred to by the characters. This ghostly presence serves as a reminder of the past, and of the secrets and sins that the characters are trying to bury. Captain Alving’s death was due to syphilis, contracted from his many sexual liaisons with other women, and his legacy of moral corruption, deceit, and disease haunts the characters throughout the play.
The title “Ghosts” also has metaphorical significance. The characters in the play are haunted by their own “ghosts” – their past mistakes, secrets, and guilt. Mrs. Alving, for example, is haunted by her decision to remain in an unhappy marriage with Captain Alving and the consequences of that decision for herself and her family. She is also haunted by the memory of her own youthful romanticism, which led her to fall in love with the idea of Captain Alving, rather than the man himself. Similarly, Oswald is haunted by his own mortality and the legacy of his father’s sins. As a result of his father’s debauchery, he has inherited a fatal case of syphilis, and is tormented by the knowledge that he will inevitably suffer the same fate.
The title “Ghosts” can also be seen as a commentary on the social and cultural norms of the time in which the play is set. The characters are trapped by the ghosts of their own society, unable to escape the expectations and prejudices that define their lives. The play critiques the hypocrisy and repression of Victorian society, which creates these “ghosts” that torment the characters. The strict moral codes of the time demanded that women be subservient to men, and that sexuality be suppressed and hidden from public view. These codes resulted in a culture of secrecy, lies, and deceit, in which women like Mrs. Alving were trapped in unhappy marriages, and men like Captain Alving were free to indulge their desires at the expense of their families.
The title “Ghosts” is also significant in relation to the play’s use of symbolism and imagery. The play is full of images of decay, corruption, and disease, which contribute to its sense of foreboding and doom. The Orphanage, where the action of the play takes place, is a decaying and dilapidated building, which serves as a metaphor for the decay and corruption of the characters themselves. The weather outside the Orphanage is also significant, with a storm raging throughout much of the play, which mirrors the turmoil and chaos that grips the characters within.
In conclusion, the title “Ghosts” is highly significant to Henrik Ibsen’s play of the same name. It operates on multiple levels, both literal and metaphorical, and serves to underscore the play’s themes and ideas. The title highlights the ghostly presence of Captain Alving, the legacy of moral corruption and disease that he leaves behind, and the ghosts that haunt the characters throughout the play. The title also critiques the repressive and hypocritical society of Victorian England, and the ways in which it creates these “ghosts” that torment and trap the characters.