Henrik Ibsen was a playwright from Norway who came up with the play Ghosts. The play was written in 1881 and performed for the first time in Chicago, Illinois in 1882. The subject matters in the script brought about a lot of negative criticism and controversies as the commentary mainly focused on the morality in the 19th century. Euthanasia, incest, venereal disease, and religion are some of the crucial subject matters that are heavily discussed in the play. There are a lot of different themes in the script that help the reader to have a clearer understanding of the message the author is trying to promote.
Deception is one of the significant themes of this play. Different characters in the story conceal truths and keep secrets from each other, resulting in a long-term effect of lying as the central theme in the plot of the act. Through the characters, the readers get an understanding how the author used deception in different forms to serve as the overarching cohesion. Deception is displayed in nearly all the relationships that are addressed in the play, and thus the story can serve as a sort of rubric for understanding love as the author presents it.
The play depicts deception as a vital aspect in the formation of both romantic and platonic relationships with the capability of revealing secrets and manipulating the reality simultaneously. In the play, there is an overwhelming occurrence of unintentional and intentional deception that can be analyzed as confirmation of the innate deceptive nature of love. Also, different forms of deception that are addressed by the author can be easily distinguished in the play based on the deceiving agent. In the plot, there are two categories in which deceit can be divided into, that is, self-deception and deception by an external agent. Treachery occurs in very many instances in the play, and by categorizing them, one can recognize related occurrences in the play on the sole basis of the dishonesty and responses from the duped.
Mrs. Alving is one of the primary characters that demonstrate to readers how the issue of lies and deception has been utilized in the play. Mrs. Alving tried to hide the true nature of her husband by creating a myth about him which she led most people to believe. As a result of this deception, the lies perpetuate themselves and naturally reproduce like a disease passing on to the next generation. Mrs. Alving knew that her husband was a womanizer, an alcoholic and was also very ill. Mrs. Alving did her very best to ensure that her son never found out about the character of his father as she states, “That has been my ceaseless struggle, day after day. After Oswald’s birth, I thought Alving seemed to be a little better. But it did not last long. And then I had to struggle twice as hard, fighting as though for life or death, so that nobody should know what sort of man my child’s father was”(Ibsen 34). At the tender age of seven, Oswald, Mrs. Alving, was sent away by her as a way of protecting him from the vile deeds of his father.
For most of his life, Oswald does not know the real character of his father, and this affects him in lots of different ways. The weather in the play is portrayed as very bleak as a result of rain and clouds which bring about darkness. This is believed to symbolize the twilight in the family that has been brought about by the number of secrets that exist between them. Readers can see even though Oswald does not know the true identity of his father, the faults that his father had, are occurring in his life. Oswald finally approaches his mother and demand to be told the truth about his father. Consequently, the author portrays how the sun comes out after that as a way of signifying how the truth freed them from the burden of secrets.
Oswald is also another character that has deceived his family and friends. He has many secrets of his own. For instance, he is also infected with the same virus that killed his father, making him terminally ill. When he returned home from London, he came with the sole purpose of dying there with the help of his soon to be wife, Regina. The legacy of his father had taken a toll on Oswald. He had been haunted by it for the better part of his life. Regina, the woman that he was planning on marrying, was his half-sister. His mother knew about this but did not inform him. Therefore, when she learns of their intended marriage, she is very distraught and is left with no other option but to tell them the truth. Mrs. Alving had instilled the ‘ghost’ of Mr. Alving on the beliefs of both Oswald and Regina without even realizing it. Oswald was brought up idolizing his father, and Regina was never told the truth about her origins. This ended up affecting how the developed as adults.
Overall, the theme of deception is significant to the readers. In this play, lying is the central focus of the whole narrative. As a reader, one can get to understand the point of view of the author. A reader needs to grasp the essence of deception in the play to have a firm grasp of the plot, characters, and events in the play. The characters in the narrative are all portrayed as deceptive in one way or another and this, in turn, introduces the reader to a set of different ideologies thus making them consider the merits of the various facets in the plot. Deception as a theme in the play gets in touch with the readers’ consciousness – whether it moves them or not – and helps them question the essence of tight and wrong in the society.
To sum it up, the characters deceived each other one way or another. The lies started up as something small – as Mrs. Alving believed – that was for the benefit of everybody but matured into something that could not be controlled. Myths and deceits were created to cover up other lies. Most of the characters tried to run away from the truth by coming up with these deceptions, but the truth caught up with them as we can see. By the end of the play, Mrs. Alving had informed Oswald of the truth about his father – whom he highly idolized – and also told Regina the truth about her origins.