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Literature Study GuidesGhostsAct 3 Osvald And Regina Summary

Ghosts | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Ghosts | Act 3 (Osvald and Regina) | Summary



Osvald Alving attempts to discuss his future with Regina Engstrand, but Mrs. Helene Alving intervenes. She explains that Osvald's earlier reflections on the joy of life have helped her better understand herself. She tells him that his father also felt the joy of life but had no outlet in which to express it. Mrs. Alving finally tells Osvald and Regina that they are half-siblings. Osvald and Regina are shocked. Osvald tries to convince Regina to stay, but she refuses. As she leaves, she reproaches Mrs. Alving for not raising her as a gentleman's daughter, which would have given her some social standing. Instead, Regina taunts Mrs. Alving with the notion that now her best option in the world can only be Engstrand's brothel for sailors.


The play reaches its climax in this scene with Mrs. Helene Alving's revelation to Osvald Alving and Regina Engstrand. Before the news is out, Osvald's comment that "everything will burn" foreshadows that things will not end well. He persists in searching for someone who will help him "when the time comes," and he speaks desperately of his "fear." Mrs. Alving thinks his increasingly fragile state comes from his self-reproach. She knows the truth will free him from his guilt but will destroy his chance for happiness with Regina.

Henrik Ibsen at last brings Mrs. Alving's, Captain Alving's, and Osvald's paths together. She explains that Osvald's insight into the joy of life provided a new lens through which she viewed her husband's behavior, as well as her own. Early in her marriage, she became a representative of the repressed society that privileges obligation to duty over duty to self. Her claim to Osvald that Captain Alving became a ravaged man because he had no outlet for his fierce vitality is part of Ibsen's indictment of society. She now understands that Captain Alving struggled to live in a "mediocre town that had no joys to offer." Mrs. Alving now, in contrast, is enlightened, but it is too late for these characters.

Act 3 is filled with leave-taking, and Regina is the next to go. She is hardened against the world when she realizes that all she has been working toward is gone. When she sees that Mrs. Alving chose to shield her own good name rather than help Regina, Regina knows that middle-class society has no place for her.

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