Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE
Emma Goldman, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama
(Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914; The Gorham Press, Boston, U.S.A.)
THE SCANDINAVIAN DRAMA: HENRIK IBSEN
THE social and revolutionary significance of Henrik Ibsen is brought out with even greater force in "Ghosts" than in his preceding works.
Not only does this pioneer of modern dramatic art undermine in "Ghosts" the Social Lie and the paralyzing effect of Duty, but the uselessness and evil of Sacrifice, the dreary Lack of Joy and of Purpose in Work are brought to light as most pernicious and destructive elements in life.
Mrs. Alving, having made what her family called a most admirable match, discovers shortly after her marriage that her husband is a drunkard and a roué. In her despair she flees to her young friend, the divinity student Manders. But he, preparing to save souls, even though they be encased in rotten bodies, sends Mrs. Alving back to her husband and her duties toward her home.
Helen Alving is young and immature. Besides, she loves young Manders; his command is law to her. She returns home, and for twenty-five years suffers all the misery and torture of the damned. That she survives is due mainly to her passionate love for the child born of that horrible relationship--her boy Oswald, her all in life. He must be saved at any cost. To do that, she had sacrificed her great yearning for him and sent him away from the poisonous atmosphere of her home.
And now he has returned, fine and free, much to the disgust of Pastor Manders, whose limited vision cannot conceive that out in the large world free men and women can live a decent and creative life.
Manders. But how is it possible that a--a young man or young woman with any decent principles can endure to live in that way?--in the eyes of all the world!