32 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen


Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1881

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Act IIAct Summaries & Analyses

Act II Summary

After dinner, Helen and the pastor discuss what to do to stop Oswald and Regina’s love affair. Helen confirms that Regina is Oswald’s half-sister; her mother was Johanna, the servant accosted by her husband. After receiving $300 to stay silent, the maid married Jacob, the carpenter, who lied about being Regina’s father. When Manders expresses disappointment in Jacob’s choice to “marry a fallen woman,” Helen calls her marriage to Oswald’s father as a marriage to “a fallen man” (32). Manders rejects Helen’s comparison and reiterates that Helen’s marriage was one “in full accordance with law and order” (33). Helen expresses regret over hiding her husband’s immoral actions and calls herself a coward for not revealing the truth to Oswald. In opposition, Manders argues that it is Helen’s responsibility to protect Oswald’s esteem for his father.

As the two debate Helen’s next steps, Helen is haunted by the ghosts of her inherited beliefs and ideals. When Manders blames her “horrible, revolutionary, free-thinking books” for corrupting her (35), Helen explains that Manders’s push for her to return to her husband years ago led her to dissect her old belief system. She and the pastor also hint at their past mutual attraction and the pastor’s rejection of her.