Pastor Manders and Mrs. Alving emerge from the dining room. They exchange civilities until they are sure that Regina and Oswald have been sent on very separate tasks and are out of earshot. Mrs. Alving suggests that Oswald's flirtations with Regina were just a whim, but the Pastor is still shocked. He insists that she immediately return to her father, but Mrs. Alving refuses such a suggestion. The Pastor is reminded of the wedding of Engstrand and Johanna, when Engstrand was profusely sorry for his irresponsibility in impregnating Johanna out of wedlock. Now, the Pastor is shocked by Engstrand's hypocrisy, especially considering the sum of money that Johanna was awarded to keep quiet and which no doubt prompted him to marry her.
Mrs. Alving reminds him that she herself married a fallen man for his money and that indeed her heart wanted to marry someone else. The Pastor tries to deny the similarity between Captain Alving and Johanna as "fallen" individuals, and he ignores the reference made to her former affections for him. He reminds her that no matter what, her marriage was made under the law, but Mrs. Alving feels that "law and order" are the source of all problems, and she yearns to break free. She rises and goes to the window, drumming on the pane. She wishes that she hadn't concealed the truth from Oswald, and she calls herself a coward. The Pastor urges her to remember the value of the "joyful illusion" she has fabricated for her son and to remember her duty to keep her son happy.
It is comical to see the Pastor angered at Engstrand. The Pastor has realized that Engstrand fooled him once, but he does not realize that Engstrand is always tricking him, and indeed, it will not be long before Engstrand has the chance to convince him that he was never betrayed at all. Regarding Johanna, it is important to note that Mrs. Alving does not regret sending her away with money to keep her quiet. She treats Johanna as simply another pawn in her grand plan to maintain good reputations. Neither does she show much compassion for Regina—she does not apologize for the awkward position she has created for the girl.
Yet Mrs. Alving realizes that there are flaws in her worldview. She calls herself a coward. She looks out the window at the darkening, misty landscape. Although she does not take immediate action, she does wish that she had the courage to do so. Similarly, even while she reads radical books, she readily agrees with the Pastor that she should keep her unconventional ideas to herself. She is a radical on a theoretical but not a practical level; while she would like to tell Oswald the truth about his father, she cannot bring herself to do so in practice.
Pastor Manders's opinion on telling Oswald the truth is that the truth would make the youth unhappy. This reveals the Pastor's fundamental reluctance to upset the status quo, a reluctance he shares with Mrs. Alving. What he does not share with Mrs. Alving is the temptation to break free. He also does not question what anyone says. Although he argues with Mrs. Alving, he does not come to any new conclusions. He just recites gospel. He repeatedly turns a blind eye to class issues; he also emphasizes the difference between Johanna the fallen woman and Captain Alving the fallen gentleman.
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