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Literature Study GuidesGhostsAct 2 Engstrand Tells All Summary

Ghosts | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Ghosts | Act 2 (Engstrand Tells All) | Summary



Engstrand comes to tell Mrs. Helene Alving that he has finished work on the orphanage. While he is there, Pastor Manders asks him about his relationship to Regina Engstrand. Once informed that Mrs. Alving knows the truth, Engstrand admits that he is not Regina's father. At first Pastor Manders judges him harshly for keeping this secret, but Engstrand tells Pastor Manders he was silent to avoid appearing prideful. Pastor Manders has a change of heart and ends up asking for Engstrand's forgiveness. The two of them depart to hold a prayer meeting at the orphanage.


This exchange highlights consistent negative character traits in Pastor Manders and Engstrand. At first Pastor Manders judges others too quickly. Feeling smug because Engstrand admitted the truth about Regina Engstrand, Pastor Manders cuts ties with him because he finds Engstrand's conduct corrupt.

Then, however, Engstrand's hypocrisy is on full display. He knows that all Pastor Manders needs is the appearance of propriety. Pastor Manders is willing to believe anything he hears if it sounds like conventional doctrine. So, Engstrand paints himself as Joanna's self-sacrificing savior. Engstrand claims he did not want to look like he was seeking credit for helping her, so he kept quiet and made a home "like the gospel says."

Engstrand is so convincing that Pastor Manders soon asks forgiveness of him. Henrik Ibsen shows how easy it is to play Pastor Manders—and those like him—for a fool, just by presenting false piety. This give-and-take relationship between Pastor Manders and Engstrand will deepen later in the play.

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