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Ghosts

Henrik Ibsen

Act 2, Part 3 of 4

Act 2, Part 2 of 4

Act 2, Part 4 of 4

Summary

Engstrand enters, wearing his Sunday clothes. He suggests that now that the orphanage has been completed, the Pastor lead a small prayer service for the workers. Engstrand claims to have occasionally led such prayers himself. The Pastor asks him if his conscience is clear, especially regarding Regina; the Pastor is furious with him for not telling him the truth. Engstrand replies that he didn't want to spread bad rumors about his new wife, Johanna. He tells a version of the story in which he married her out of pity. Engstrand walks with a limp, and in his story he explains that the injury was sustained during an attempt to halt a drunken brawl; as he lay injured, the pregnant Johanna came to him looking for help. When the Pastor asks about the money the anonymous yachtsman (Regina's alleged father) had given Johanna, Engstrand says that he wanted to throw it in the yachtsman's face, but Johanna insisted they use it to raise the child.

The Pastor asks Engstrand to forgive him for doubting him. He asks for some way to show his good will. Engstrand mentions his establishment for sailors, describing it as a kind of refuge or asylum, a place where they could be under warm and fatherly supervision. The Pastor is enthusiastic about this idea, and for now he sends Engstrand to prepare the candles for prayer at the orphanage. He asks Mrs. Alving what she thinks, and she replies that she thinks he is childish, a baby. Then, she tries to embrace him, but he resists and goes to lead prayer at the orphanage. Mrs. Alving sighs, then stares out the window for a while.

Commentary

In this episode, we see Engstrand at the height of his hypocrisy. At the start of the play, he was wearing work clothes, soaked in the rain. Now he is wearing his best clothes; he is careful to cultivate an image for the Pastor. Although he is a man literally and symbolically soaked in the elements of the countryside, he tries to appear civilized. His language is full of religious cliches designed to fool the Pastor. His description of the sailor's establishment is the exact opposite of the bawdy house he described to Regina earlier. In his invention of an alternate identity for the sake of the Pastor, we see that Engstrand is, like many of the play's characters, obsessed with public reputation.

Ibsen never lets us know what Engstrand really thought about his marriage, but we know from the opening scene of the play that he is not afraid to poke bitter fun at the fact that his wife received $300 from a yachtsman. We know that he is often dishonest. When Mrs. Alving calls the Pastor a baby, we assume it is because he has naively accepted Engstrand's tale. The Pastor is so gullible because he is always eager to find an easy answer to things—as with public opinion, he would rather there be no scandals or disagreements. Also, he is highly receptive to the empty rhetoric of religion, which he uses as a reassurance and which Engstrand uses as a tool to dupe the Pastor.

Mrs. Alving is amused that the Pastor is so gullible, but her attempt to embrace him seems to betray some latent, long-surviving affection. She sighs when he leaves and looks out the window. Night has fallen by now, but she still associates the window with escape, with her desire to be courageous and disregard the law. At this point, that would mean embracing the Pastor despite his opinions and despite his shunning of her, and it would entail telling Oswald the truth.

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