The Unlikely Tragic Hero
In his essay on tragedy, Arthur Miller once wrote "the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity." This insightful view of the common man's ability to be a tragic hero is emblematic of the female protagonist, Mrs. Alving, in Henrik Ibsen's controversial drama Ghosts. In her fight to pull her family together and become the archetypal wife Mrs. Alving learns of life's tragedies- she loses everything she loves and all she has built in the name of dignity.
Regardless of the deleterious internal effects on her psyche, Mrs. Alving protects and uphold her values. She respects marriage; she knew her husband was unfaithful, yet Mrs. Alving did not end the relationship as she wanted to uphold her matrimonial vows. She recalls "soon after, I heard Alving come in too. I heard him say something softly to her. And then I heard - oh! it still sounds in my ears, so hateful and yet so ludicrous - I heard my own servant-maid whisper, 'Let me go, Mr. Alving! Let me be!'" (1.405). Though she fights to understand the truth, she has nobly held her tongue to save her boy and let her husband die honorably. Although she believes it is a bad idea to leave the newly built orphanage uninsured, she protects Manders from public indignation by complying with his anti insurance idea; this becomes a regrettable decision when the orphanage burns down. She still respects Manders' ability to function under the laws of society, but when he makes note of the ignominious progressive books she has been reading Mrs. Alving becomes defensive. She explains, "here, in my loneliness, I have come to the same way of thinking, Pastor Manders. But I have never dared to say anything" (1.351). While she has a strong belief in progressive ideas, Mrs. Alving would never shame her family by outwardly expressing them.
Mrs. Alving respects her family enough...
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