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FEATURING AN IDEAL WOMAN IN IBSEN’S GHOST

Mister Gidion Maru


Fakultas Bahasa dan Seni, Unima
mrhekang@yahoo.com

Intisari
Penelitian ini ditujukan untuk mengungkap fitur-fitur perempuan ideal dalam karya sastra khususnya
dalam drama karya Henrik Ibsen yang berjudul Ghost . Tujuan ini akan dicapai dengan mempelajari dan
menganalisa tokoh utama dalam drama tersebut yakni Nyonya Alving dengan mengaitkannya dalam
peran sebagai seorang anak gadis, istri dan juga sebagai seorang ibu. Dalam rangka mencapai tujuan
tersebut, penelitian ini menggunakan pendekatan obyektif yang dikemukakan oleh M H Abram. Data
yang dipakai dalam penelitian ini sepenuhnya dari dalam Ghost yakni dalam bentuk tindakan dan
ucapan dari tokoh utama serta komentar-komentar dari tokoh lain tentang atau terkait dengan tokoh
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utama. Hasil penelitian ini menunjukan bahwa nyonya Alving merefleksikan fitur seorang perempuan
ideal ditinjau dari peran-peran yang dia lakoni baik sebagai anak maupun Ibu dan juga istri. Fitur ini
dapat disintesiskan sebagai gambaran perempuan ideal dalam masyarakat dalam karya tersebut.

Kata kunci: perempuan ideal, Ibsen, fitur

Introduction applicable to real life. Second, the play arouses


Like Ibsen‟s other plays, Ghosts (1881) the writer‟s curiosity about the idea of an ideal
is the story of woman who is acted as a model woman. To the writer‟s knowledge, there have
wife and mother sacrificing herself at every been few researches on Ibsen‟s Ghosts (1881). If
point with selfless thoroughness (Levin, any, none of which has given special attention to
1960:196). In this play the protagonist, Mrs the feature of ideal woman in terms of her
Alving, feels that her place is by her husband for domestic roles especially viewed from the
better or worse and by her child. In addition to characterization of the protagonist, Mrs Alving,
that, Mrs Alving also acts as good daughter who and the commentary of other characters on her.
is always obedient to her mother‟s advice. Thus, the research paper will attempt to
Besides that she behaves as a good person who observe and to analyze the character‟s attitude or
cares for the society‟s need by establishing the action and speech which characterize an ideal
orphanage dedicated to public service. Mrs. woman. The examination will be focused on the
Alving‟s attitudes seem to delineate features of a innate quality and attitude of Mrs. Alving. The
woman in her existence as a daughter, wife, and main intention of the writer is to reveal the
mother. features of an ideal woman inferred from the
The reflection of the features confirms roles as a daughter, a wife and mother. In other
the view that Ghosts, according to Arden as words, the primary objective of this study is to
quoted by Levin (1960), is Ibsen‟s richest and find out the illustration of the concept of an ideal
most human play. It means that the features of a woman in Ghosts (1881) by analyzing the
woman in the play might be the richness of life protagonist‟s actions and speeches, and the
shared to people and the situation found in the commentary of other characters on the
daily life. Further, it can be assumed that the protagonist, namely, Mrs. Alving. How the
play is to be like picture of life. In other words, protagonist acts and what actually motivates her
the things that happen on the stage are things become the main concern.
happening to human. The subject discussed in Methods
the play goes around the domestic life and the By considering that the focus of this
demand for a single standard of conduct women. study is on the feature of an ideal woman in the
It gives the picture of an ideal society of the time particular society, three steps are taken in
particularly for a woman in the eyes of the dealing with the data collected namely
surroundings. The issues of behaving as an ideal identification, classification and verification.
woman in the house lead to the perspective of The importance notes for these steps are the
whether or not an ideal woman does exist in the application of the objective approaches which
society. Its reflection in the literary work signals assumes the self-sufficiency of a literary work in
that it does not come from vacuum meaning that expressing its ideas and messages. The first step,
it may correspond with people‟s real experiences identification, deals with analyzing the text of
or at least the hopes for such ideal figure. the play as mental evidences in order to reveal
In light of this assumption, a study on the features of an ideal woman.
Ghost in revealing the features of woman in her
existence in the domestic roles deserves to be Since this study takes literary work as
carried out. In facts, Ghosts (1881) is not Ibsen‟s its object and primary sources for its analysis, it
best play but the writer finds that it is is thought to be crucial to apply literary
challenging because, first, it has qualities that is approach. It assists to reveal the meaning from
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the novel. The objective approach as suggested alternative, it means that she ignores her own
by M. H Abrams is assigned in order to view feeling. Consequently she will be unhappy in her
how a literary works conveys its idea through marriage. Whereas if she chooses the second
the totality of it is intrinsic aspect. It can be said alternative, it means that she neglects her duty to
that since this study is trying to find out the her family, for that, she will be considered as
features of an ideal woman in Ibsen‟s Ghosts rebellious daughter.
(1881) and disregarding the external influence Moreover, Helene knows that her
such as the playwright‟s influence, the intention mother‟s intention to marry her with Captain
of the playwright and the condition of society at Alving is only based on her mother‟s
the time, this research paper mainly applies the consideration on the Captain‟s “magnificence”.
objective approach. This approach sees “a the Mrs Alving‟s mother views money as a goal of
literary product as a self sufficient object or life. Her mother thinks that, by accepting the
integer or as a world in itself” proposal of Captain Alving, it will uplift the
(Abrams,1971:37). The work of art is observed family status because the captain is a rich and
and analyzed in isolation from external points respected man in their society. Hence, Helena
of references. This approach sets out to judge makes up her mind to obey her mother‟s
solely the work of art by intrinsic criteria to its intention because she thinks that it is her duty as
own mode of being. In this research, the a daughter to fulfill her parents‟ wishes, raising
intrinsic criteria are mostly focused on the their status. She puts aside her own feeling and
character of the play particularly the accepts the suggestion of her mother whose
protagonist. criteria of a husband are different from hers. Her
Tracing the features of an Ideal Woman mother considers merely bases on the
As stated previously, Ghost presents the materialistic consideration and disregards the
incidents which usually occur to human life. If Captain‟s personality. She never considers the
the play is observed in depth, it can be inferred life of Helene after her marriage whether she is
that the play reveals the features of woman happy or not. Helene‟s decision probably derives
particularly in the domestic arena such as in from her wish to maintain affection of her
terms of a daughter, a wife, and, certainly, a family and to contribute something useful to her
mother. These features constitute the reflection family such as the uplifting of status.
of the roles played by the woman character in The obedience is not the only good
the play, in this case, Mrs Alving. These nature of Helene as a daughter. She is a
reflections are elaborated in detail in the responsible daughter, too. She realizes that her
following parts. duty to her family is to bring happiness.
A. Features of a Daughter. Therefore, she does not want to trouble her
A good child is a child who is obedient family. She bears each problem by her own.
to the parents. This nature is shown by Mrs When she has a problem, she will not come and
Alving. As a daughter, she has been very ask her family for a help. This commitment is
obedient. Event though she has been mature reflected in the incident when she can not endure
enough to make decision concerning her future, her husband‟s bad conducts in the first year of
she still obeys her parents particularly her her marriage. She does not run away to her
mother‟s suggestion to marry Captain Alving mother‟s house but to Pastor Manders. She is of
who is actually not her type and of her age. In the opinion that if she runs away to her home,
fact, at that time Helene, Mrs Alving‟s first her family will be involved in her trouble. Thus,
name, is in difficult position. She faces a by running away to Pastor Manders she does not
dilemma, whether she accepts her mother‟s bother her family. In addition to that, Helene
suggestion to marry captain Alving or refuses it sees that the returns to her mother‟s house will
since her feeling of love has been engaged to upset her family since their pride to have a rich
someone else namely Manders who later son-in-law will be ruined by her leaving. In her
becomes her advisor. She is bewildered with refuge, she accepts the advice of Pastor Manders
these alternatives. If she chooses the first to return to her lawful husband. This acceptance
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is not merely based on consideration of her duty carried out on the ground of love. It certainly
as a wife to stay with the husband but also her should be endorsed by a mutual understanding
concern with her family‟ reputation. If people which, then, heads for a mutual respect between
know that she runs away from her husband, it of husband and wife. The couple is demanded to
course ruins her family‟s reputation. Her family complement each other. A husband‟s weakness,
will be condemned of having a daughter who for instance, should be complemented by a
does not perform her duty as a wife that is to wife‟s superiority. Besides, both husband and
stay with her husband to whom she is bound in wife should be willing to give up their bad habits
Holy Matrimony. which no longer suit their new relationship.
A happy marriage is far from Mrs.
For the same reason, Helene conceals Alving‟s. Her marriage is not based on love. She
her husband‟s actions such as flirting, drinking, does not love her husband. She does not know
and adultery which are regarded beyond the her husband. She only knows that marrying
limit of good behavior and morality. By Captain Alving will uplift the family‟s social
pretending to be in harmony with her husband status due to the Captain‟s “magnificence”. Her
she does not want the society to condemn her husband, Captain Alving, does not love her
family of having a felonious so-in-law. It will either. He considers Mrs. Alving not as a wife
strike her family‟s reputation. Actually, Helene‟s but only as an instrument for his “joy of life”.
unhappy marriage which is caused by her He views Mrs Alving no ore than an instrument
husband‟s bad conducts and the absence of love, for the fulfillment of his biological desire. Thus,
may lead Helene to the unfaithful action. She the unhappy marriage inevitably occurs.
has the opportunity to commit a scandal with Despite the unhappy marriage and
another man, for instance, with Manders as a having a ”loose” husband, Mrs Alving still
means compensation of her situation. Yet, she performs her duty as a wife. As a wife, Mrs .
chooses to keep on being faithful to her husband. Alving is very patient. She can stand facing her
It means that she still acts in accordance with the husband‟s bad conducts. It is clear when she
social norms and avoids the ruin of her family‟s detects that her husband seduces her maid,
reputation that has just been obtained by her Johanna, who later gives birth to a daughter,
marriage. It can be inferred that as a daughter, named Regine. Knowing that the scandal has
Mrs Alving or Helene behaves as what she is occurred in her house, Mrs Alving is not panic
supposed to do. She always obeys her parents and does not show her anger but patiently and
and lifts up her family‟s reputation. wisely faces it. She does not blame Johanna
In summary, these features of since she understands that Johanna is in the
obedience, responsibility and family reputation weak position of refusing her master‟s desire.
lead to the perspective that, as a daughter, Mrs. Johanna is a maid whose duty is to serve the
Alving has been an ideal one. This synthesizes master. Mrs. Alving accepts her husband‟s
that the hopes for an ideal daughter should be in adulterous life merely because she knows the
line with the features. Being obedient and life which her husband leads is to enjoy life
responsible ought to be performed by an ideal without any limit, such as drinking flirting. It is
daughter. In the same, the willingness to elevate not her duty to judge her husband. In order to
and keep family‟s reputation seems to be the prevent the scandal to happen again, Mrs Alving
other criterion for whatever it takes. asks her maid to leave the house by giving her
some money as a compensation to keep the
B. Features of a Wife secret. Mrs Alving herself conceals it from the
Getting married is an expected moment outsiders. The other action which shows the
for the couple in love and they believe it as an patience of Mrs Alving as a wife toward her
important phase in the course of their life. It husband is her effort to lead her husband into
should be undertaken in order to live together as living in a good way by persuading him to do
a couple. A marriage is expected to be a happy some useful things instead of drinking and
and beautiful moment. It will be felt so, if it is flirting. In persuading her husband, Mrs Alving
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patiently waits for the right time, that is, at the by managing her household affairs. Even
moment when her husband is in a good mood. though, her husband inherits great sum of money
She expects the alteration of her husband‟s bad to her, Mrs. Alving acts not only as a household
habits but she is disappointed by his penitence. treasure and spends it but plays an important
As a wife, Mrs Alving also realizes the role in improving her family‟s fortune. She
importance of her family‟s reputation realizes that her husband just spends his time
particularly her husband‟s who is considered as doing some trivial things that he calls it the „joy
the pillar of the society. Therefore, she tries with of life” Such as drinking, and sprawling on the
her best to conceal her husband‟s bad habits sofa all day. Therefore, she has to work hard in
such as drinking and flirting by pretending to be order to replace her husband economic role in
happy and in harmony with her husband. By her family. She invests the money in form of
acting like that, she hopes that people assume livestock and enterprises which become the
that her husband is a good husband who can source of the family‟s income.
bring happiness to the family and their thought The benefits of Mrs. Alving‟s business
of the captain‟s greatness still maintains. Mrs. bring the prosperity to her family
Alving‟s effort to hide her husband‟s bad materialistically and maintain the good image of
conducts can be said to be successful. It is the family as an exemplary family. The people
obviously seen that until the death of her think they are spiritually but actually they only
husband, nobody knows what kind of life the pretend to live in harmony. Here, she is
captain had been leading even ten years after it. successful in making other people believe that
The prestige and honour of the Captain remain her family is happy and harmonious. While in
upheld. fact she is not happy spiritually, she is merely
However, Mrs. Alving still worries if pretending. People regard Captain Alving as a
someday the truth about her husband‟s attitude good husband who has completely performed
will be revealed. She is afraid of people‟s his duty. Consequently, Captain Alving is
condemnation toward her husband after finding admired and respected by the whole society. In
out who Captain Alving is. For that reason, she this case, it is clear that her maintaining a good
tries to look for a more convincing way of image of her family indirectly contributes to a
concealing her husband‟s bad conducts. good impression of her husband.
Eventually, she makes up her mind to take a In addition to that, Mrs. Alving tries to
preventive action by establishing an orphanage place herself as a friend for her husband. She
is dedicated to social service, it will bring good tries to enjoy the things her husband enjoys. She
husband‟s good image to remain flourished in wants to understand him, to be closed to him and
the people‟s mind. to minimize the gap between Alving and her
Mrs Alving keeps the secret not only to because their communication is practically cut
the society around her but also her son, Osvald. off. It occurs for the husband is too busy with
She does not inform Osvald how his father the joy of life and ignores his household affairs.
behaves. Moreover, Osvald lives abroad, thus, Mrs Alving realizes that it is her duty to be a
he can not directly observe his father‟s daily good companion for her husband in every
activities. It is easy for Mrs Alving to conceal situation. It is a manifestation of her pledge
the secret. In her letter to Osvald in Paris, she before the nuptial ceremony which declares that
never tells about her husband‟s looseness. She she will love and honor her husband, whom God
even creates a fictional story about her entrust to her as her husband and live marriage
husband‟s “goodness”. By doing so, she wishes with him, according to God‟s command and
to instill a good impression of her husband. Mrs promise, in good days and in bad days until
.Alving wants her husband to be honored by death parts them.
Osvald, their son. No matter how bad his father From the quotations above, it can be inferred
is. that besides, accompanying her husband in order
Besides being patient and honoring her to get close to him, Mrs Alving also aims at
husband, Mrs. Alving takes full control of him keeping her husband at home and preventing
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him of perpetrating a scandal or other bad things bad habits. In fact, before coming to this
such as drinking, flirting, and talking an obscene decision, Mrs Alving is faced with the difficult
thing in front of the society. She is apprehensive choices. On one side, she love her son and
about her husband‟s bad behaviors. She tries certainly wants to be near him with her all the
very hard to conceal it from the outsiders. This time. Moreover, Osvald is very young. If she
effort is based on the consideration of the sends him away, it means that she will be
existed insight in her society. Her society separated from her son. By doing this she is
believes that a husband never does wrong. If condemned by the society as a bad mother who
something goes wrong with their relationship, abandons her son. For Osvald himself, he may
the will fall on the wife. Therefore, people will be lack of parent‟s attention and affection. On
think that the wife fails to make a home to be the other side, she does not want Osvald to be
comfortable place for her husband. The reason contaminated by his father‟s bad habits. She sees
of Mrs Alving for keeping her husband at home that for a boy of Osvald‟s age, he will be easily
is to prevent him from committing more sins affected by the surrounding condition including
that is adultery. In her belief, the sinners will be his father‟s attitude. Because the father is
burnt in the hell when the Judgment Day comes. leading the ”loose” life, it surely gives a bad
As a good wife, she surely does not want it influence on the mental development of her son.
befall on her husband. Thus, for the reason of love, Mrs. Alving, makes
Mrs. Alving‟s decision to build the up her mind to take the most difficult choice that
orphanage is also a reflection of her outstanding is to send Osvald away. She considers more
nature as a wife. In fact, Mrs. Alving feels that about Osvald‟s future and does not want him to
she is trapped in her mother‟s idealism to uplift behave like his father. She hopes that, by living
their status by marrying the Captain and in the away from a degraded home, Osvald grows up
responsibility to obey the law and order that normally.
exist in her society. In brief, it can be said that a Mrs. Alving realizes that someday her
wife, Mrs Alving succeeds to perform her duty. son must return home. She is worried if her
She acts precisely as the wife should be. Thus, husband bad habits influence her son. In order to
she is an ideal wife. prevent her husband‟s bad influence that might
C. Features of a Mother contaminate her family and her household, she
There is saying that mother‟s does not want his inheritance. Therefore, she
love asks for no reward. A mother will sincerely spends all his money to build the orphanage. She
do everything for the sake of her children‟s assumes that everything related to her husband
goodness. Even she has to sacrifice herself and has a bad influence. When Osvald returns home
to suffer from agony. The important thing for a at the age of twenty three or twenty four years,
good mother is to see her children live in a Mrs Alving is very delighted of having her only
happy life. Therefore, a mother is usually closer son home. It is the time for her to show how she
to the children than a father although both of loves him very much. Being at home, Osvald is
them have an important role in the children treated with all possible care by Mrs Alving. She
upbringing. heeds very much for Osvald‟s health. The thing
As a mother, Mrs Alving loves her son, which brings damage to her son‟s health also
Osvald, very much. She is willing to do becomes her concern, for instance, smoking. She
everything for Osvald‟s sake. It is obviously does not permit Osvald to smoke. She knows
seen in her decision to send Osvald who is at the that smoking endangers his lungs. She does not
time nearly seven years of age, away to Paris want her son to be ill because of smoking. On
which is very far from her hometown. People the other side, Mrs. Alving is pleased and
think that this decision is seriously wrong since grateful to see the thing that indicates her son‟s
Osvald is too young to live away from home. He good condition, for instance, good appetite. This
still needs parental care and guidance. For Mrs. feeling derives from the assumption that if one is
Alving, she has to do that in order to prevent her ill, his appetite must have been lessened whereas
son from being contaminated by her husband‟s Osvald, now, still has a good appetite.
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Actually, Mrs Alving‟s concern to stop his endless agony and the second alternative
Osvald‟s mental development does not stop in is not giving him the tablets but Osvald‟s agony
her decision to isolate Osvald from his father, will continue. These alternatives bring her
yet it continues when Osvald is at home. She suffering. If she does the first alternative, it
disagrees and does not allow Osvald to get means that she will kill her son and price is she
involved in dissolute relationship. Here, it is will lose her most precious treasure. While, for
clear that Mrs Alving guides her son to the good Osvald, he is free from his endless agony. If she
morality and prevents him from going astray or chooses the second alternative, it means that her
committing sinful deed. Osvald‟s acceptance of beloved son will still live but suffer from terror
her mother‟s advice proves that he respects her of his illness. At last, Mrs. Alving decides to
mother as well as understands her. He knows take the second alternative. Her motherly feeling
that her mother‟s advice is aimed at his disallows her to put an end her son as long as
goodness. It also shows that Mrs. Alving can she can. She will look after him because she
place herself very closed to her son. Mrs. Alving believes that her son can be cured. Her motherly
is able to eliminate a gap between a mother and feeling convinces herself that there will be
a son. Consequently, Osvald regards her not medicine for her son.
only as a mother but also as a friend who is In short, it can be said, here, that being a
juxtaposed to him. mother, Mrs. Alving is in ideal one. She
Acting as a friend for her son, Mrs. dedicates all her life to love and to look after her
Alving is frequently ready to hear Osvald‟s son. She considers her son as the main thing in
complaints concerning his condition. She her life.
realizes that, in terms of one‟s complaints, it Conclusion
should be heard and responded. No matter if the This observation on the concept of an
listener has a solution or not. The essence is that ideal woman as seen in Ghosts (1881) is done by
it has been expressed and responded. In this analyzing the protagonist as a person, a
situation, Mrs. Alving performs her role as a daughter, a wife, and a mother. The protagonist,
wise mother who can accept her son‟s complaint Mrs. Alving, behaves as she is supposed to and
for her son. Considering her mother as a friend, as the society dictates to; as a daughter, she is so
Osvald himself feels free to express his obedient to her parent‟s words and maintaining
shortcomings to her. her family reputation. As a wife, she is faithful,
For Mrs. Alving, her son is the most performing her economic role when her husband
important thing in her life. She dedicates all her is unable to do so, and honoring her husband
life for Osvald‟s happiness. She willingly even though her husband is a “loose” man.
neglects her own happiness as long as it will Being mother, she is very attentive to her son
bring happiness to her son, for instance, when and dedicates all her life to her son‟s happiness.
her son is unhappy after he returns home. Even Mrs. Alving has many characteristics to
though it is actually a difficult decision for her, be called an ideal woman. Yet, she is still a
Mrs. Alving willingly suggests that if it really human being who is basically imperfect. She
makes him happy. As a mother, it is certain that may have a weakness, for instance; her decision
she wishes to have her son at home. However, to send Osvald away is fundamentally good but
her consideration is based on Osvald‟s happiness it is not so wise. It is true that isolating her son
not hers. can prevent him from being affected by his
Mrs. Alving feels that it is only for father‟s bad habits. However, she does not take
Osvald she lives. She will do everything for her into account other deliberations such as the
son. For Mrs. Alving, Osvald is her invaluable society where Osvald lives, the protection, the
treasure and her life will be meaningless without motherly guidance and the affection he needs.
him. In fact, Mrs Alving‟s love is brought to the In brief, it can be concluded that, as a
test when Osvald is dying. She is confronted to a human being who is basically imperfect, Mrs.
very difficult choice. The first alternative is to Alving is an ideal woman who performs her
give the morphine tablets to her son in order to duty as a daughter, a wife, and a mother. In other
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words, the concept of an ideal woman can be Ibsen, Henrik. (1971).Ghosts and Other Plays,
revealed through Mrs. Alving‟s behaviors. But, Trans Peter Watts, Middlesex: Penguin
in fact, expecting a real ideal mother who is Books Ltd
truly perfect is almost impossible. Johson, Stanley, et all, (1966). The Play and The
Reader, Oregon: Prentice Hall Inc,.
Kartono, Kartini, (1992). Psikologi Wanita:
Mengenal Wanita Sebagai Ibu dan
Nenek, Bandung: Mandar Maju.
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