The Issues of Class and Gender in the play of Ghosts

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topic question: Discuss some of the ways in which plays challenge boundaries of race/ethnicity, class, and/or gender. In your answer make detailed reference to one or move plays you have studied.

Ghosts, by Henrik Ibsen, is a realist drama written in 19th century Norway. The social context of this time meant his play was seen as a radial piece and theaters often refused to play it, afraid of backlash from the conservative Lutheran community. This is due to the boundaries of class and gender which are constantly challenged throughout this play, in both a historical and modern context. In respect to class, this is achieved primarily through the use of characterization and a fundamental theme of deceit, which highlights the juxtaposition between different classes. In terms of gender, the challenging of traditional roles is created due to the confronting nature of many events depicted in this novel, particularly those surrounding euthanasia and character of Mrs. Alving. This is a prime example of how the challenged boundaries can be easily related to modern times as euthanasia is a controversial modern issue. This modern context once again helps to cement the ways in which boundaries are challenged constantly by Ibsen in his work. However, the issues of class mentioned in this drama relate directly towards the context of Ghosts.

Regina is a fundamental character used by Ibsen to challenge the gender boundaries of his authorial context. In 18th century Norway, women held a significantly lower position in the societal hierarchy. The influence of the conservative Lutheran Church meant that they were primarily the property of the husband, and motherhood was seen as the epitome of their existence. Martin Luther, the pioneer of the Lutheran Church, split from the Catholic Church, and has been quoted as saying "If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it." And this, alongside bible references such as Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (Tim. 2:11-14) and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16), illustrate the social conditions for women during this context. The idea of Victorian morality, that is, a code of morality in which sexuality is repressed and unpleasantness is often ignored, is identifiable within the context of this drama.

Regina is an ambitious character who wishes to raise her status in society- that of a commoner or proletariat, to that of the bourgeois. The intense manner she attempt this change, alongside the fact she is a woman, challenges the gender mores of this society. She knows what she wants, and will do all that is within her power to achieve it. Through the use of language, she successfully creates a persona in order to manipulate Pastor Manders, revealed in the text when she says Why, good morning, Pastor. Is the steamer in already? [p27], and insults her father, a man whom is of a lower status, by stating What do you want? Stay where you are. [p21]. In addition to this, Regina often inserts French vocabulary into her everyday speech in order to raise her perceived status among her peers, demonstrated in the lines Im not going to stand here and have a rendezvous with you. [p22] and Pied de mouton [p24]. The contradictions between her actions towards Pastor Manders and others of a lower status, as well as the manner in which she attempts to raise her social standing cause tension within the play, and the juxtaposition highlights the challenging nature of her character.

Her actions also speak loud, and the defiance Reginas character holds over traditional gender boundaries are proven clear. Despite of the fact Pastor Manders is a religious elder, she flirts with him in order to raise her position in society, evident when she says Mrs. Alving says Ive also filled out [p29],...
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