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Fam Proc 2:81-94, 1963

A Re-Appraisal of Ibsen's "Ghosts"


DEREK RUSSELL DAVIS, M.D.a
aDepartment of Mental Health, University of Bristol, England.

To the psychopathologist, Ibsen's plays are of great interest because they portray conflicts between members of
familieshusband, wife and childand because Ibsen provides sufficient details of the history of the families to show how
the conflicts have arisen. These things are especially true of the play, "Ghosts: A Domestic Drama."
This play, written and published in 1881, is an epiloguelike several of Ibsen's plays (14), the action in it being the
culmination in a progress of events extending back to before the birth of its central character, Oswald Alving. In this
respect it is like a case history. The case it describes is an epitome of what was then and is still one of the cardinal problems
of psychopathology, namely, dementia, i.e., loss of mental powers, in a man in the middle twenties, in the absence of signs
of physical illness.
Much that Ibsen wrote about Oswald's illness reflected the attitudes of physicians of his day. Thus he suggested that its
cause lay in the degenerationor softeningof the brain as a result of the inheritance of disease from a profligate parent,
and that its course would inevitably be a progressive decline to idiocy. Yet the essence of the play lies in the dramatic
representation of the conflicts in the family triangle formed by Oswald and his mother and father.
The pattern of relationships in Oswald's family is one now regarded as typical, in general and in detail, of the families of
young male schizophrenic patients. Re-appraisal along these lines, and in the light of modern psychopathology, meets some
of the criticisms made of the play and shows that Ibsen was astonishingly accurate and pertinent in the observations he
reported of human behaviour. The play is indeed "like an image of life."
The disaster that befell Oswald, it may be argued, was not due to infection by syphilis, transmitted to him by his father,
which might have been treated by Penicillin, or for that matter Salvarsan or malaria, had they then been available. On the
contrary, it was the consequence of the psychological circumstances in which he grew up, which also led Captain Alving to
disgrace and death, and Helene Alving to disillusionment and despair. They and Oswald were haunted and destroyed by
ghosts, not just by what they inherited, but by "all kinds of old defunct theories, all sorts of old defunct beliefs, and things
like that," which they could not get rid of.

A DOCTOR'S DESCRIPTION OF OSWALD'S ILLNESS


For convenience in presenting the clinical features of Oswald's illness, let us adopt the device of supposing that after the
curtain falls Mrs. Alving does not give him poison, but fetches a doctor, as she had tried to do immediately before his
strange fit. The doctor later describes the case to his colleagues, let us suppose, partly in the words of the characters of the
play1; he places the emphasis, however, on the points of particular interest to psychopathologists of today.
The patient, Oswald Alving, is "twenty-six, twenty-seven years old," single, a painter who "has begun to make a name"
for himself, although "things seem to have fallen off a bit of late." For most of the last ten years or so he has been living in
Paris, the doctor narrates, but he had returned home two days before he fell ill, in order to be present at the opening of an
orphanage built in memory of his father. The orphanage caught fire on the eve of the opening and was completely
destroyed. A few hours later, at day-break, he became acutely disturbed, whether on account of this disaster or for some
other reason, and had a strange attack. He had had an attack of some kind shortly before he left Paris, but nothing is known
of its manifestations or the circumstances of its occurrence.
His illness began just over two years ago, immediately after the last time he was home, when he got back to Paris. The
main symptoms at that time were violent pains at the back of the head"like an iron band clamped tight around the
neck"and also giddiness, inability to work and to concentrate, loss of skill in his painting and feelings of being paralysed.
He consulted one of the leading doctors in Paris, who told him first that he had inherited a disease from a dissolute father,
and that there was something worm-eaten about him since birth; in particular, he remembers that the physician used the
word "vermoulu." When he rejected with indignation the suggestion that his father had been dissolute, the physician shifted
his ground and told him that his illness was the result of his own thoughtlessness.
He seemed very tired when he got home for the opening of the orphanage, and slept rather late, but by dinner time he had
made a full recovery from a strenuous journey. Indeed, he then made a tentative sexual advance to the domestic servant,
Regine, which was overheard by his mother who became very upset. Later that evening he began drinking more than his
mother thought good for him. He then told her of his illness, and of "all the torment, the anguish, the remorse and the great
mental dread" from which he was suffering, insisting that it was his mind that had "given way ... and was destroyed." He
spoke also of his admiration for Regine, his hopes of finding salvation with her because of her vitality and joy in living, and

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his intention of marrying her. His mother declared her opposition to the match, but their conversation was cut short by the
fire at the orphanage.
When it was resumed a few hours later, she told him and Regine that Regine was the illegitimate child of his father, and,
therefore, his half-sister. Regine, abandoning her hopes of marriage with him and recognising also that he was ill, decided
to leave the house immediately. Left alone with his mother, Oswald began to talk again of the hopelessness of his disease,
which he said would turn him into a helpless child, and reproached her for sending Regine away. He then asked her to take
his life by giving him twelve tablets of morphia, which he said he had stored up for this purpose. The attack began a few
minutes later. He shrank in his chair, his muscles went flaccid, his eyes stared vacantly, and he muttered several times, "The
sun ... the sun."

THE DIAGNOSIS
Let us interrupt the doctor's report here, and consider the diagnosis. This has often been assumed to be syphilis affecting
the central nervous system (3, 8, 14), i.e., general paralysis of the insaneG.P.I., as it is sometimes called.
Syphilis may be either congenital or acquired through sexual intercourse with an infected partner; in the former case it
has been transmitted from the mother before birth. Ibsen excluded the latter, for Oswald remarked: "I've never gone in for
reckless living. Not in any sense of the word ... I've never done that." He left no doubt that Oswald's father, on the other
hand, had often exposed himself to infection, which he might have transmitted to Oswald's mother, and thence to Oswald.
The suggestion that Oswald was infected when as a child he smoked his father's pipe need not be taken seriously. That Mrs.
Alving, or for that matter Regine, showed no signs of the infection is not fatal to this diagnosis, since the manifestations of
syphilis are capricious. In congenital cases the disease may remain latent until the middle twenties, although this is now
thought to be unusual. Medical opinion in 1881 was that, "G.P.I. is seldom met with before twenty-five years old." (4)
In 1881 the diagnosis of neurosyphilis was not reliable. The infective agent, the spirochaete, was not discovered until
1905. The technique of lumbar puncture, by which samples of cerebro-spinal fluid are obtained, was not introduced until
1890; the Wassermann complement-fixation reaction, which for the first time gave some precision to the diagnosis, not
until 1906. Treatment by Salvarsan was instituted in 1910, by malaria after the first World War, by Penicillin not until after
the second World War. The differentiation of G.P.I. from other forms of dementia had to depend in 1881 upon evaluation of
the clinical signs, but this was not put onto a sound basis until 1886, when Magnan for the first time clearly distinguished
between psychoses due to syphilis, toxic psychoses due to alcoholnotably absintheor drugs, and again psychoses, such
as dementia praecox, in which there are no signs of organic disease and no delirium.
That Ibsen cited a Paris physician as the authority for the diagnosis in Oswald's case was appropriate, although probably
not deliberate, for Paris had then been in the lead in psychiatry for nearly a century. Philippe Pinel, the Physician in charge
of the Bictre in Paris at the beginning of the nineteenth century, gave new currency to the idea that dementia is the cardinal
symptom of insanity. Morel, a Paris psychiatrist, introduced the term, dementia praecox. Magnan, also a Paris psychiatrist,
drew attention in 1864 to absinthe, morphia and cocaine, and syphilis as causes of dementia. Mental illness, both Morel and
Magnan asserted, is the result of hereditary weakness, which in any given family increases from generation to generation.
This last clause is a restatement of a principle stated by Charles Darwingenerally accepted at that time, especially by
Morel (18) (see also Galton, [10]).
The opinion Oswald was given by the Paris doctor accurately reflects the views published by Morel and Magnan.
Doctors disputed, however, when the play first appeared, as they have done ever since, whether the case history was
correctly described. The criticisms sustained against it have all referred to implausibility if the case is taken to be one of
neurosyphilis. They fall away if syphilis is dispensed with as an aetiological factor.
Ibsen appears to have been describing a type of case which in England would have been given the diagnosis "secondary
dementia." On the other hand, to specify the cause of the dementia as inherited syphilis, as critics have tended to do, is to
make a differential diagnosis which a physician in 1881 was not able to make. Views were then changing rapidly, and
already by 1891, the date of the first production in England, the differentiation of cases of dementia had advanced because
of the publication of Magnan's monograph. Incidentally, the play was first produced in Oslo in 1883. Maudsley in 1879
([17] pp. 425-31), for instance, distinguished between acute, primary and curable dementia and chronic, secondary and
uncurable dementia. Secondary dementia, he said, follows either forms of mental derangement which are not acute, or other
causes of a gradual mental disorganisation; with it went a decline to mental feebleness and incoherence. Patients have to be
fed, moved, clothed and cared for in every way, he added.
Secondary dementia was sometimes attributed to syphilis, but all authorities were agreed that hereditary degeneracy was
important. Clouston, for instance, declared in 1888, "Secondary dementia is always hereditary" (5). Ibsen was well aware
that disease might be hereditary, for he attributed Dr. Rank's illness in the Doll's House to inheritance from a dissolute
father"penance for (his) father's gay subaltern life"and in The Wild Duck Hedwig's eye disease to inheritance. He
evidently intended that Oswald's illness should be regarded as partly, although not wholly, due to hereditary weakness. He
did not specify that it was due to syphilis.

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Nearly all the cases then diagnosed as secondary dementia would now be diagnosed as chronic schizophrenia. Very few
would be attributed to syphilis and these would show physical signs of disease of the central nervous system. Incidentally,
the average age of the first admission to hospital of male patients suffering from schizophrenia in the middle of the
nineteenth century, as in the middle of this century, was 27 years old (13, 2); three quarters of these patients are single.
The form of mental illness now called schizophrenia was not clearly defined until 1896, when Kraepelin, then in
Heidelburg, described it in great detail but referred to it still as dementia praecox. The term, schizophrenia, was introduced
by Bleuler in 1911. Those psychiatrists working before the first World War who had come under the influence of Freud,
Jung or Bleuler (e.g., Maeder [16]), made enquiries into the family constellations of patients suffering from schizophrenia,
and recognised that parental influence in early childhood affected the content of the illness, but they did not regard family
factors as causes of the illness. Close incestuous attachments to mother or sister were remarked upon (e.g., Hollos [12]).
The first modern descriptions of the families of schizophrenic patients, and the first claims that parental influences are
causal, were published in 1949 (15, 19).
The aetiology of schizophrenia is still controversial. The importance attached to heredity has declined sharply in the last
two decades, and interest has grown in the families of the patients, and, especially in male cases, in the relationship between
the patient and his mother, who is said in the jargon to be schizophrenogenic. Schizophrenia is thought to develop when, in
circumstances yet to be defined, anxiety reaches a critical intensity. In male patients in the middle twenties, one common
source of anxiety is the relationship with the mother. The illness begins when a change in this relationship intensifies the
anxiety; frustration of incestuous wishes contributes to the anxiety (7).
Let us now reconsider the diagnosis of Oswald's illness in contemporary terms. Acquired neurosyphilis is excluded by
the history. Congenital neurosyphilis is highly unlikely, because of the late onset and of the lack of physical signs of the
disease. The salient symptoms were mental: intense and persistent anxiety, out of proportion to external events, falling off
in mental powers and in performance, feelings of dissolution and hopelessness, and contemplation of suicide. These
symptoms, when they affect a man in the middle twenties and last for two years, are strongly suggestive of schizophrenia, or
at any rate a schizoid reaction. A firm diagnosis of schizophrenia would only be possible, however, if disorder in thinking is
demonstrated in special tests.
Whether or not the diagnosis of Oswald's illness is schizophrenia is not the crucial point. What is important is that he
was suffering from a severe and persistent mental illness of a kind which psychiatrists nowadays would try to explain,
whatever diagnostic label they attached to it, by reference to the circumstances in which he had grown up, and to his current
relationships. They would not think it necessary to suppose there to have been any infection by syphilis. There might well
be a difference of opinion on how much weight should be given to the contribution made to the aetiology by inheritance.
When they came to look for circumstances to account for an illness like Oswald's, they would enquire into the history of
the family and of the relationships of the mother and father to each other and to the patient. They would be interested in the
very details which Ibsen has given. In attributing Oswald's illness to inheritance, and perhaps to congenital infection, he
complies with the opinions expressed by the authorities of his day. Nevertheless, the details on which he elaborates provide
the material for a modern psychological explanation.

OSWALD'S FAMILY LIFE


Let us now allow the doctor to resume his account of the case. Oswald's father was a man of charm, great energy and
vitality, who found no outlet for his exuberance in a small provincial town. Although nothing is known of his family, he had
a good social position and became a Captain and later a Court Chamberlain. He was guilty of youthful indiscretions,
irregularities and excesses, and a cheerful promiscuity, and Helene was aware of his impurity when they married. Yet he
was a good match in his day, and full of the joys of living, whereas Helene was poorly brought up and educated, and had
been a religious fanatic in her youth. She had some doubts about marrying him, for her heart had strayed to Pastor Manders,
but she did so on the advice of her mother and her two aunts; presumably she had no father then.
The marriage was thus for "extrinsic reasons," although these were religious and moral. It was in difficulties from the
start. She denied her duty as a wife, and ran away from her husband "after little more than a year of married life," seeking
refuge in the house of Pastor Manders. "Take me," she begged him, but he refused to do so. On the contrary, he urged her to
submit to her duty and obligations. In consequence, she returned to her husband.
Oswald was conceived at about this time, but it is unlikely that Pastor Manders was the father, as James Joyce has
mischievously suggested. We know that she was in love with him and threw herself at him, but we know also of his
scruples, and we may reasonably have doubts about his potence. Evidently she had fantasies that Pastor Manders was the
father, for she once remarked to him teasingly that Oswald was more like a clergyman about the mouth than like Captain
Alving. It is more probable that Oswald was conceived shortly after her return to her husband, in the second year of the
marriage.
She treated her husband shockingly, as she later recognised, and he was a broken man before Oswald was born. He
continued to be as debauched in his pleasures until his death as he had been all his life. He seduced Johanna, the domestic

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servant in the house, when Oswald was getting on for seven, and Regine was conceived. Helene then sent Oswald away and
put him out to strangers. Oswald was never allowed to set foot in the house again as long as his father was alive, in order,
she said, that he might be saved from being poisoned "by breathing the foul air of this polluted house." For the ten years
after Oswald left the house until her husband's death, she took complete control, although she participated in, and may even
have encouraged his secret drinking orgies.
Oswald was sixteen or seventeen years old when his father died after nineteen years of marriage. He returned home for
awhile after his father's death, and then went to live in Paris. His acute illness began on the tenth anniversary of his father's
death.
There were many features in Oswald's family, the doctor's report continues, which are thought now to contribute to the
aetiology of schizophrenia in young males (e.g., Fleck [9]; Davis [6]), and they will be listed.
I. The family was socially isolated. After Helene's return to her husband, they moved out of the town, and their closest
friend, Pastor Manders, did not set foot in their house again until after the husband's death. They seem to have had no
regular visitors. Captain Alving "never had a single real friend," although "a lot of lazy, drunken, hangers-on." The
cast list is the shortest of all in Ibsen's plays. No family was as isolated, except perhaps the Gynts and the
Borkmanns.
II. His mother was not free at the time of her marriage to form a good relationship with her husband. For one thing, she
could not accept his sexuality, for reasons which are not known; the premature loss of her father may have had
something to do with it. For another thing, she was in love with another man. As is typical of women who are
repelled by sexuality, she had chosen a man of doubtful potence. She was not emancipated in her attitudes towards
marriage, which she had not wanted. That her husband had been promiscuous before marriage suggests that he
would have had difficulty in forming a relationship with her, even had she allowed it.
III. They failed to make a partnership, and the schism between them persisted. There was rivalry between them for
Oswald's affections for a time, and the father was gradually excluded. The relationships in the family triangle thus
showed "skew," as the relationship between son and father failed to develop, and that between son and mother
became dominant.
IV. Oswald's relationship with his father was shallow. He never knew anything about his father, except for the beautiful
illusion his mother built up for him, so that his father became "a kind of ideal," but not a satisfactory model for
identification. He was handicapped, therefore, in achieving sexual identity and maturity.
V. His relationship with his mother was disturbed during his childhood and continued so. Admittedly, our knowledge of
her shortcomings as a mother during the first few years of Oswald's childhood is largely due to Pastor Manders, who
can be believed, although he was not unprejudiced as an informant. Although she sought exclusive possession of him
in rivalry with his father, she denied her duty not only as wife but also as mother, and threw off the encumbrances of
being a mother to him, sending him away from her before he was seven years old. He felt that he had never had a
home, until his experience of the unconventional homes of his artist friends in Paris. Loss of the mother before the
patient is eight years old, because of her death, divorce, illness or desertion, is known to be unduly common in cases
of psychosis in the young (1).
VI. Oswald returned to his mother after his father's death, and while he was still adolescent. His incestuous desires for
her are likely to have been revived in this situation. Although he went away from her after a while at home, he
continued to be dependent on her emotionally, and he did not become emancipated from her. Although twenty-six or
twenty-seven years old, he had not formed a heterosexual attachment with a girl of his own age, and appears to have
been inactive sexually. His relationship with Regine remained superficial, although she would have allowed it to
become closer.
VII. The conflicts in his relationship with his mother were revived in an acute form a few hours before the acute illness
began. Solicitous and indulgent and even seductive, she demanded reassurance of his love for her. Yet she showed
herself still unable to accept his sexuality, or the displacement of his affections from herself to Regine. She pressed
her claims to look after him, and to give him a helping hand, and destroyed his relationship with Regine, admittedly
only after admonition by Pastor Manders. She expressed her wish to possess him completely, and to have him
dependent on her, promising him that he would have anything he wanted, just as when he was a little boy. Yet she
denies his feelings and recoils from him. It was while she was pressing her claims upon him that his attack began.
The burning down of the orphanage, the destruction of his illusions about his father, the anniversary, the loss of Regine,
and, especially, the revival of intense conflicts in his relationship with his mother all combined, it may be supposed, to
produce severe and intolerable anxiety, and to bring his illness to a crisis.

IBSEN AND THE FAMILY


Ibsen gave a great deal of relevant information about the family. The details he chose were revealing, and he wrote with
remarkable economy, as the following examples show. He told us in the first scene of Mrs. Alving's solicitude for her son in
this exchange.

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Manders: "And Mrs. Alving is at home, I trust?"


Regine: "Yes, of course. She's just upstairs seeing to some cocoa for Mr. Oswald."
Mrs. Alving's speech which immediately preceded Oswald's Oswald's fit brings out some of the essential features of the
mother-son relationship in schizophrenia: her denial that he has reasons for his fears, her facile reassurance, and her wish to
restore the relationship between them to that of mother and little child, whom she may pamper; she is at the same time
coercive and indulgent (Cf. Haley, [11]).
Mrs. Alving (bent over him): "What terrible ideas they were to get into your head, Oswald. But all just imagination. All
these upsets have been too much for you. But now you will be able to have a good long rest. At home,
with your mother beside you, my darling. Anything you want you shall have, just like when you were a
little boy. There now. The attack's over. You see how quickly it went. Oh, I knew it would ... See what a
lovely day we're going to have, Oswald? Brilliant sunshine. Now you'll be able to see the place properly."
Ibsen's account is a highly plausible case history of a disease which was little understood when he wrote it. Yet he was
well aware that disastrous consequences could follow from the circumstances he described, for he said about Mrs. Alving's
marriage: "Nemesis is invited upon the offspring by marrying for extrinsic reasons, even when they are religious or
moral" And he wrote elsewhere: "These women of the modern age, mistreated as daughters, as sisters, as wives, not
educated in accordance with their talents, debarred from following their mission, deprived of their inheritance, embittered
in mindthese are the ones who supply the mothers for the new generation. What will be the result?"
That his account conformed in many respects to the views of the Paris psychiatrists of his time hardly deserves comment,
for these views were widely disseminated, and similar views were published in Germany and England. On the other hand, it
is remarkable that he should have reported so much of relevance about the circumstances in Oswald's family. These things
were not then in medical text books, and he must have learnt about them for himself, from his own experience or through
literature or observations of similar cases. These are not uncommon, and it is likely that he came across one or more
patients like Oswald while he was a chemist's assistant in Grimstad. He is known to have used living models often. The
case of the young doctor he knew in Bergen, who was the model for Dr. Rank in The Doll's House, may have suggested
some of the details.
The illness of Heinrich Heine, which has been suggested (8) as a model, was very different from Oswald's. Heine's
mental powers remained unaffected to the last, although he became blind in one eye, and partially blind in the other, twelve
years before his death; severely affected physically, he was bed ridden for eight years. He may well have been suffering
from Tabes Dorsalis, i.e. syphilis affecting the spinal cord.
Ibsen's own experience as a child would certainly have given him some awareness of the anxieties felt by Oswald. There
is little doubt that he had his own experiences very much in mind while he was writing Ghosts, for just previously he had
begun a short autobiography, which, however, never got beyond a description of his earliest childhood in Skien. He had
moved from his home in Skien to Venstp when he was eight years old, a year older than was Oswald when he was sent
away to strangers. This move, the reason for which was his father's bankruptcy, was from a house in the centre of the town,
where his father dispensed reckless hospitality, to outside the town and to social isolation, similar to that experienced by the
Alving family after they moved.
Ibsen left home altogether just before he was 16 years old, to go not to Paris, but to Grimstad. He had an affair there,
when he was 18 years old, with a domestic servant, ten years older than he. He severed all connections with his family
when he was 22 years old and remained alienated from them, except for occasional letters to his sister, Hedvig, to whom he
was very attached. He married when he was 28 years old.
Conflicts similar to those affecting Oswald's family affect other families in Ibsen's plays. Fru Inger til Ostrt, deeply
devoted to her illegitimate son, Nils Stenssn, unwittingly brings about his murder by Olaf Skaktavl. Erhard Borkman
breaks away from his mother, Gunhild, and her sister, Ella, who fight bitterly with each other to hold him each for herself,
but lose him to Mrs. Wilton, older and more experienced than he. Attachment to the mother is the central theme of the play
Peer Gynt. Peer leaves his mother, but does not become free from her, even after her death. He does not, and cannot, marry,
although he is potent with Ingrid, whom he has abducted, as with the monstrous Green One. He feels it would be a sacrilege
to go to Solveig, but at the end of the play becomes reconciled with her as "mother and wife"; "You stainless woman," he
calls her. There are several points of resemblance of the Werle family in the Wild Duck and the Alvings.
Ibsen works out in these plays the consequences of the morbid attachment of mother and son. In each case the son tries to
break away from the attachment, which is anxiety-ridden for many reasons, not least because it arouses incestuous desires.
For this reason he leaves home, as Ibsen did, as Peer Gynt did, and as Oswald did. The mother's death brought the
attachment to an end in the case of the Werles, but Gregers too left home. The attachment is associated in every case, Ibsen
himself, Nils Stenssn, Peer Gynt, Oswald Alving, Gregers Werle, and Erhard Borkman, with an unsatisfactory marriage of
mother and father, and with the father's disgrace, for which the mother has been partly, although indirectly, responsible.
Young men caught up in such conflicts fail to establish a normal sexual partnership with a woman of the same age, and
remain inactive sexually, like Oswald and Gregers, or are potent only with women they despise, as Peer Gynt was, or

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become attached to an older woman, like Ibsen and Erhard Borkman. If the conflicts become intense, the son becomes
mentally ill, insidiously and progressively like Oswald, or acutely like Peer Gynt. Otherwise, they remain misfits like
Gregers Werle, whose fate is to be the thirteenth at table.
Similar conflicts affect the relationship between Alfred and Rita, the husband and wife in the play Little Eyolf, and bring
disaster to their child. Alfred is incapable of establishing a normal sexual partnership with Rita for reasons which Ibsen
gives. His relationship with his mother was broken, through her death, when he was eight years old. His father died when
he was eighteen years old, and he then became closely attached to Asta, whom he believes to be his half-sister. This
attachment to a half-sister, which precluded the attachment to Rita, and its consequences, is worked out in Little Eyolf. A
similar attachment to a half-sister is a minor theme in Ghosts. Ibsen himself had doubts about the paternity of his sister
Hedwig.
The essence of "Ghosts" is a crisis in the relationship of son and mother. Although the history given of the relationship
extends back to before the son's conception, the action of the play covers less than twelve hours. Ghosts provides an
intensive study, Peer Gynt an extensive study of this relationship, for the action of Peer Gynt covers several decades, and
ends in a reconciliation.
The outcome in Oswald's case remains in doubt. He lost his chance of salvation when Regine left the house. There
appears little hope that his relationship with his mother will change for the better. At the end of the play she recoils from
him with horror, and it appears probable that, as he feared, and as the Paris physician predicted, he will regress to a state of
childish dependence on her; "everything he cares about will degenerate into something ugly." Were she to agree to receive
psychiatric treatment for herself, there is little prospect that she would persevere in it, or allow her son to do so. The tragedy
comes about because her upbringing and her adherence to all sorts of old defunct beliefs make her unable to accept his joy
of life and sexuality, any more than she could accept them in her husband. She recoils from him, but is dependent on him,
and cannot let him free. Yet before accepting a bad prognosis for Oswald it is as well to remember that Ibsen himself was
able to marry when he was 28 years old, although it was not for many years after that he could even partly free himself from
the ghosts of his past. He was 53 years old when he wrote the play.
Illnesses like Oswald's recur in every generation. Medical and other attitudes towards them change and change again.
The attitudes of the Paris psychiatrists of the last century are outmoded, although they still have their adherents. Those of
Ibsen are remarkably contemporary.

REFERENCES
1. Barry, H., "Significance of Maternal Bereavement Before Age of Eight in Psychiatric Patients," Arch. Neur. Psy.,
62, 630-637, 1949.
2. Braaty, T., Mnner Zwischen 15 and 25 Jahren. Mentalhygienische Untersuchungen mit besonderer
Bercksichtigung der Schizophrenie, Oslo, Fabritius, 1934.
3. Brandes, G., (1882) Correspondance de Georg Brandes. Lettres Choisis et Annotes par Paul Kruger, II,
L'Angleterre et la Russie, Copenhagen, Rosenkilde og Bagger, 1956.
4. Clouston, T. S., "A Case of General Paralysis at the Age of Sixteen," J. Ment. Sci., 23, 419, 1877.
5. Clouston, T. S., "Presidential Address of the Medico-Psychological Association," J. Ment. Sci., 34, 325-348,
1888.
6. Davis, D. R., "Family Environment and Mental Illness," in A. T. Welford (Ed.) Society, London, Routledge, 1962.
7. Davis, D. R., "The Family Triangle in Schizophrenia," Brit. J. Med. Psychol., 34, 53-63, 1961.
8. Downs, B. W., Ibsen. The Intellectual Background, Cambridge University Press, 1946.
9. Fleck, S., "Family Dynamics and Origin of Schizophrenia," Psychosom. Med., 22, 333-344, 1960.
10. Galton, F., Hereditary Genius, London, Macmillan, 1869.
11. Haley, J., "The Family of the Schizophrenic: A Model System," J. Nerv. and Ment. Dis., 129, 357-374, 1959.
12. Hollos, I., "Psychoanalytische Beleuchtung eines Falles von Dementia Precox," Int. Zeitzschr. arztl. Psychoan., 2,
367-375, 1914.
13. Klaf, S. K. and Hamilton, J. G., "Schizophrenia A Hundred Years Ago and Today," J. Ment. Sci., 107, 819-827,
1961.
14. Lavrin, J., Ibsen An Approach, London, Methuen, 1950.
15. Lidz, T. and Lidz, R. W., "The Family Environment of Schizophrenic Patients," Am. J. Psy., 106, 332-345, 1949.
16. Maeder, A., "Psychologische Untersuchungen an Dementia Precox-Kranken" in E. Bleuler and S. Freud (Eds.)
Jahrbuch fr Psychoanalytische und Psychopathologische Forschungen, Bd. II, lte Hlfte, Leipzig, Deuticke,
1910.
17. Maudsley, H., The Pathology of Mind, London, Macmillan, 1879.

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18. Morel, B. A., Trait des Dgnrescences Physiques, Intellectuelles et Morales de L'Espce Humaine et des
Causes qui Produisent ces varits Maladives, Paris, Bailliere, 1857.
19. Tietze, T., "A Study of Mothers of Schizophrenic Patients," Psychiatry, 12, 55-65, 1949.

1Unless stated otherwise, the quotations are taken from the Oxford Ibsen (Vol. V).