Ghosts | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Ghosts Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Dec. 2016. Web. 29 Sep. 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, December 2). Ghosts Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "Ghosts Study Guide." December 2, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2023.


Course Hero, "Ghosts Study Guide," December 2, 2016, accessed September 29, 2023,

Ghosts | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


How is Pastor Manders's comment, "It's such a pity, Mrs. Alving, the way you misjudge Engstrand," an example of dramatic irony in Act 1 of Ghosts?

The comment in Act 1 (Pastor Manders and Mrs. Alving) is an example of dramatic irony because Pastor Manders is the one who misjudges Engstrand. Mrs. Helene Alving knows that Engstrand is a disreputable man who treats his daughter poorly. She sees through Engstrand's false, public show of piety, and does not believe what he says or what he says he will do. She judges him accurately. Pastor Manders is the one taken in by Engstrand, who knows how to say and do the right things to make a good impression. He consistently plays up to the pastor, who actually thinks that he is "making a real effort to lead a blameless life." Henrik Ibsen uses Pastor Manders's observation to show again that his judgment is faulty.

How does Mrs. Helene Alving's comment about Engstrand and the matches at the orphanage in Act 1 of Ghosts contribute to the plot?

Henrik Ibsen raises the possibility of the orphanage's destruction in Act 1 (Pastor Manders and Mrs. Alving). It is a key detail, especially because it comes after Mrs. Helene Alving's decision not to insure the orphanage. The idea in realistic drama that all details are important is seen in the reference to Engstrand and a fire in the orphanage. Mrs. Alving's revelation that there was a small fire at the orphanage adds another plot component and creates suspense for readers and spectators. They will now wait to learn if the fire foreshadows something more serious. As the play's action unfolds, readers and audience members will look for the resolution of this plot line.

What is the significance of the story about Osvald Alving smoking his father's pipe when he was a child in Act 1 of Ghosts?

This brief story in Act 1 (Osvald Arrives) provides details that give a more complete picture of several characters. Captain Alving is shown in an unflattering light: he encourages his young son to smoke until he vomits, which is irresponsible and cruel. Mrs. Helene Alving shows that she is still protective of her husband's reputation; she tries to downplay Osvald's story by insisting that his memory is faulty: she does not want Osvald to think badly of his father. Pastor Manders shows that he prefers easy opinions over real, messy facts. Although he acknowledges that Captain Alving's behavior was "peculiar," he still insists that the captain is to be admired and emulated. Osvald Alving tells the story without judgment, and then expresses admiration for his father's "good and useful" work. Readers will see Osvald refer to this childhood experience again later in the play.

How does Mrs. Helene Alving's opinion about sending Osvald Alving to live abroad compare and contrast with Pastor Manders's view of this arrangement in Act 1 of Ghosts?

Mrs. Helene Alving and Pastor Manders disagree in Act 1 (Osvald Arrives) about whether it is appropriate for a child to grow up away from his family. Mrs. Alving defends her choice, saying that an only child, in particular, benefits from living away from the oppressive affection of his parents. Her remarks are her attempt to justify her actions. Pastor Manders, however, claims that a child's "rightful place" will always be the parental home. The pastor offers a traditional view that is representative of the church and society in general. Mrs. Alving expresses a more worldly, even Utopian, idea rather than conventional perspective on child-rearing.

How does Osvald Alving's description of his Parisian friends' living arrangements in Act 1 of Ghosts relate to Mrs. Helene Alving's ideas about free love in the books she reads?

Readers learn in Act 1 (Osvald Arrives) that Osvald Alving and Mrs. Helene Alving share the same views. Osvald tells Pastor Manders about men and women who live together out of wedlock with their children in Paris. Pastor Manders is appalled and thinks this is a depraved arrangement, but Osvald thinks it shows good character, because the men did not abandon their children. Osvald's claims that his friends act responsibly ring hollow with Pastor Manders, who believes this behavior is the sign of a society that values immorality. Likewise, Mrs. Alving accepts the views of free love in her books, and receives the same response from Pastor Manders. She will go on to say that she agrees with everything Osvald has said about his friends.

How does Osvald Alving contrast his artist friends with people Pastor Manders considers respectable in Act 1 of Ghosts?

After describing the way his friends live together unmarried, Osvald Alving observes in Act 1 (Osvald Arrives) that he has never seen them be unkind. When Pastor Manders judges him harshly for supporting them, Osvald does not retreat from his opinion. Instead, he tells Pastor Manders about the people he has seen who act the way Pastor Manders considers immoral. The husbands and fathers Pastor Manders would characterize as "exemplary" are the ones who behave the worst. Osvald explains that the reason those men can speak with such certainty about the "monstrous immorality" they see abroad is because they have experienced it themselves.

How are Osvald Alving's artist friends and the men he derides as "respectable" examples of the theme truth versus lies in Act 1 of Ghosts?

In Act 1 (Osvald Arrives), according to Osvald Alving his friends do not present themselves as something they are not. They do not claim that they live according to society's rules but then behave outside them. They do adopt unconventional lifestyles, but they stand by the way they live. They tell the truth about their lives. Osvald is critical, however, of men like those in his hometown who pretend to uphold a version of morality endorsed by society, but then act against those rules. These men live a lie because they are hypocrites. Such respectable men are often the first to judge others harshly.

How does Mrs. Helene Alving's behavior early in her marriage (as described in Act 1 of Ghosts) compare and contrast with Nora's behavior in Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House?

In Act 1 (Mrs. Alving's Secrets), Pastor Manders describes how Mrs. Helene Alving left her husband after a year of marriage, because she did not approve of his drunkenness and sexually unrestrained behavior. She wanted the freedom to search for her own happiness. Mrs. Alving returned to her husband, however, after Pastor Manders convinced her it is her duty to stay with him. Like Mrs. Alving, Nora, in A Doll's House, leaves her husband because she becomes unable to support and love him, although for reasons different from Mrs. Alving. Unlike Mrs. Alving, however, Nora does not return to her husband in the play. She will set off on her own to see if she can achieve personal fulfillment as an independent person.

Why in Act 1 of Ghosts does Pastor Manders feel he has the right to lecture Mrs. Helene Alving about her actions as a wife and mother?

Pastor Manders feels he has the authority as Mrs. Helene Alving's "priest" to look back on her life and criticize her harshly in Act 1 (Mrs. Alving's Secrets). He is society's representative of conventional rules of behavior. He speaks freely because he feels he has the weight of society behind him. Although he describes himself as Mrs. Alving's "business adviser" and her and her husband's "childhood friend," he puts those roles aside to assume the position of moral judge. Because he firmly supports society's position on moral issues, he feels secure in outlining and dismissing Mrs. Alving's choices and beliefs.

Why does Mrs. Helene Alving chastise Pastor Manders for the way he has spoken to her in Act 1 of Ghosts?

Mrs. Helene Alving is indignant in Act 1 (Mrs. Alving's Secrets) that Pastor Manders has spoken about things in her marriage that he knows nothing about. She is described as "controlling herself" after he has "said his piece." She then takes her turn to speak to him just the way he has just spoken to her. Although Pastor Manders invokes his moral superiority and is patronizing to her, she considers herself his equal in the conversation. She denies that she is making excuses, but is ready to "tell a few facts" about her marriage and her choices. Pastor Manders approaches his evaluation of Mrs. Alving's past the way he does most things: with a great deal of judgment but little real knowledge of the situation.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Ghosts? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!