Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ibsen's Ghosts (Round Two)

Group members:

Andy V.
Stephen C.
Carla C.

9 comments:

CarlaC said...

hey guys so i looked up the Dancing girl of Izu it is 176 pages long and from what the thing is though it is a book of a collection of short stories so im not sure if we can still do it so i cant really give a summary because it is various short stories. Also Stephen break a leg with the whole Dartmouth thing. =)

Stephen said...

Thanks, Carla!
So I looked up The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa. It's about a changing time in Japanese history (Japan was importing culture from the West). It follows a man in a gang (the man, who is the narrator, hints at criminaal activity, but that's about it). The focus is not on the gang, but on the people of Asakusa that the man in the gang observes in the course of their daily life. Mostly, these people are on the "underbelly" of society, and eventually in the book, these stories start intertwinging together. It's 279 pages long.

Stephen said...

HA! I snatched up a copy of the book at the malden public library! Let me know if you need help obtaining one!

Andy V. said...

So I went to the Malden Public Library, and they have no "Old Capitol" in anywhere. The librarian suggested that we should by the book if we want to have it for the project.

Stephen said...

Post 1
Part A
Going into the chapter, I think that the interaction between Mr. Manders and Mrs. Alving could not be more interesting. The entire first act seems to consist of the conversation between the pastor and the widow. I like how Ibsen arranged the conversation- it was very smooth- it doesn’t reveal to the reader anything new until needed, but then brings up the necessary context until there is no doubt as to what happened. The gradual revelation of what happened between Mrs. Alving and Mr. Alving is, in my opinion, very well done. The pastor gives his view of events, and then Mrs. Alving gives the truth of them.
It is interesting to note the type of language that Mr. Manders uses when he chastises Mrs. Alving for having tried to run away from her family. He says, “To crave for happiness in this world is simply to be possessed by a spirit of revolt. What right have we to happiness? No! We must do our duty, Mrs. Alving. And your duty was to cleave to the man you had chosen and to whom you were bound by a sacred bond.” He also says, “I was but the humble instrument of a higher power. And is it not true that my having been able to bring you again under the yoke of duty and obedience sowed the seeds of a rich blessing on all the rest of your life?” To our modern ears, this seems rather sexist to me, with the word choice of “yoke” and the idea that a woman had no right to happiness. Mr. Manders thoroughly represents the “conservative” segment of the population, that even in Ibsen’s time, called for a patriarchal society that held double standards. The way that we are drawn to have sympathy with Mrs. Alving, especially when she reveals the “big secret,” is in a way, a repudiation of the ideals represented by Mr. Manders. His moralizing actually serves the point of painting the background of what’s expected before Ibsen reveals what actually was occurring within the Alving household.

Part B
Since we switched to the short story “Ghost” from the Old Capital, I have been wondering what the title “Ghost” means. There seems to be no ghost as of Act I, though this may certainly change, since there are 2 more acts. The word “ghost” can be taken in very different ways. One can be the average stereotypical view of ghosts, that of white apparitions that go through walls. While another view is that of a haunting and nagging idea in one’s mind that one can’t get rid of (i.e the ghosts of someone’s past) Judging even from this first act, I predict that it should be the latter- Mr. Alving might resurface even after death in some form.

Stephen said...

Post 2
Part A
On page 99-100, Mrs. Alving makes a comment about intellectualism that I thought was very eye opening. When Mr. Manders says, “Ah!- there we have the outcome of your reading. Fine fruit it has borne- this abominable, subversive, free thinking literature!” To which she replies, “You are wrong there, my friend. You are the one who made me begin to think…by forcing me to submit to what you called my duty and my obligations; by praising as right….what my whole soul revolted against….That was what led me to examine your teachings critically” (99-100). Here, she explains why she had the “books” that the pastor found “useless” in the first act. Those books, while intentionally left vague, are revealed to be philosophy/general knowledge/secular texts, which the pastor heartily disapproves of. This again draws the contrast between Manders and Alving. While she is willing to embrace amateur intellectualism and debate, Manders is, again, one who needs to explain away mysteries with religious meanings and allusions. I think that this clash between new intellectualism and old tradition is an ongoing theme in our world, even today. College students’ parents lament that their children “become different” after college, which is an example of the idea of intellectualism vs. old tradition. Alving and Manders realize that each have differing fundamental viewpoints. The victory of intellectualism (Alving is consistently shown in a better light- as a sacrificing and caring mother) over tradition (Manders is constantly shown as old fashioned, stuffy, and insensitive to Alving’s feelings of rejection) is a theme of this play.

As a side note, I’ve felt that there may be an underlying relationship between Manders and Alving. During the time that she ran away, she apparently says “Here I am, take me!” (100). Whether this is a biblical reference (from Isaiah?) or to be read as literal can be debatable. Manders also vehemently denies any improper relationship: “Never- even in my most secret thoughts-have I for a moment regarded you as anything but the wife of another” (100) the very statement of which should arouse some suspicion.

Part B
Act II and the very end of Act I mention “ghosts” a few times. When Alving hears voices in her house, she thinks it is Oswald, and she immediately thinks: Ghosts! I think that the word conjures up in this story the idea of a connection between past and present. Alving writes that “old dead ideas and old dead beliefs….are dormant…but actually come alive in” (99) people, like seeing “ghosts before my eyes” Alving is haunted by the actions of her husband even as a widow of ten years, and she feels a shiver because dormant ideas and feelings are beginning to resurface.

Andy V. said...

Post 1 Part A

The first act really introduces us to the characters and how they think. The act also shows us not only how each character thinks but why they think that way. We can see why Ms. Alving decides to raise her son in such a way. We can see why Engstrand has such a poor and self destructive life style. Regina also acts so high and mighty over her father because of her lavish life style with Ms. Alving. Each of their personalities is shown in the act. Mrs. Alving is loyal and submissive, Oswald is rather rebellious, Manders has strong values, Engstrand is an eccentric man, and Regina is a young and intelligent. The first act sets the stage with the introduction to the characters and their motives.

Each of the characters however, have flaws about them that make me dislike them. Ms. Alving’s submissive nature made me very annoyed. Engstrand’s lack of value for education annoys me as well. The lack of ability to think outside the rules of Manders aggravates me. Regina is very high and mighty and looks down on her dad. The characters each have a flaw in them which makes them unique.

Part B
I agree with Stephen, the interactions between Mr. Manders and Mrs. Alving is interesting. Ibsen shows more and more about the characters though their chats. It reveals more about their past, their personalities and their current actions. The flow in which the information comes in is constant and never leaves the reader waiting around. Manders has a strong influence on Mrs. Alving and it is interesting to see what his influence might change her choices later on.

Stephen said...

Post 3
Part A
I especially noticed the budding parallels between Oswald and Regina. Apparently, Mr. Alving slept with a maid and Mrs. Alving has been haunted by it ever since. In Act II, Oswald suddenly starts playing a very big role. A new history between Oswald and Regina is revealed (Oswald jokingly asks her to go to Europe, she takes it seriously), and there is some sort of attraction. Oswald is very interesting in Act II. He seems to have some sort of depression, and he claims that Regina is “the joy of life.” He uses words like “hope of salvation” to describe her.
I confess that I don’t quite yet know what the purpose of this infatuation with Regina is. Perhaps it is solely used to bring back memories of Mr. Alving, and to use the past to make a point later. Perhaps the answer becomes clear near the end. All the same, this sudden infatuation is a bit unexpected, but I have confidence that Ibsen will work it out near the end.
Engstrand is another important character that is just making an appearance. In the beginning of the play, he was a sinister character, frightening Regina. I think that the purpose of the first showing of Engstrand is to establish him immediately. Now that he reappears in Act II and III, the reader knows to be wary around whatever he is trying to do. It is apparent that Engstrand is trying to enmesh himself in with the Pastor. He seems so subservient, but the “asides” give him away. I find myself wondering about his motives.

Part B
I must say that, like Andy, the “flaws” for each character really make a point about them. Regina is high and mighty with her dad because she doesn’t like him (some past event is certainly implied between them both, but it is still unclear). Mrs. Alving’s submissiveness is probably a result of talking with a moralizing spiritual leader. She reveals herself later to be an independent minded woman. And as stated above, I really don’t see how Engstrand has any positive motives. He calls his daughter a “hussy,” and seems to show overt respect while internally despising everyone.

Stephen said...

Post 4
Part A
The ending of the play is dominated by Oswald’s condition. We find out near the end that Regina leaves the family after having found out that she is illegitimate. She makes hints that she would find her own way into the world, even if it meant going into “Alving Home,” probably as a prostitute for sailors. Then, Oswald reveals the reason why he has been angling for Regina, why he has some sort of attraction to Regina. It is revealed that he has some sort of brain degenerative disorder, and he further reveals that he was only angling for Regina’s help to end his life. After a discussion about Oswald’s father, he asks her to help end his life. The play ends with Oswald presumably turning into a vegetable.
I think that Ghost is social commentary on a wide variety of subjects. We have commentary against strict moralizing, unscrupulous men, overbearing mothers, and euthanasia. I’m still struggling to connect Oswald’s euthanasia request with the previous Acts’ themes. Perhaps they are meant to be connected, perhaps not.
The short but important roles played by all of the characters, from Oswald, to Regina, to Engstrand, all are used, in my mind, to develop separate meanings. Oswald represents depression, while Regina represents a modern, free woman. Engstrand is used to highlight Manders’ ineptitude while also commenting on his relationship with his daughter, as well as children born out of wedlock. Overall, so many themes are touched in this play that it can be seen as an overarching social commentary on society.

Part B
Back to the “Ghost” idea, the word “ghost” is used again in act III. Mrs. Alving says, “Ghosts of beliefs!” (124) incredulously when Oswald expresses disillusionment with his relationship with his father. This time, “ghosts” could signify something that looks like it’s there, but isn’t. Beliefs that seem, or are assumed to be present, but are not, are explored in this particular segment. Anyone have better connections that can tie together the word “ghost” through all three acts?