The Ghost Sonata

The Ghost Sonata Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of the character of the Cook in the play?

    The Cook is a woman who serves the Colonel's family their meals each day. However, instead of providing nutritious meals, she extracts all of the nourishment out of the food for herself, leaving them with no nutritional value, causing the Colonel's family to waste away. She is a parallel character to the Old Man, who is said to have done the same thing when he worked as a servant in Bengtsson's household. These two characters represent the vampiric effect that class inequality can have. In the play, the resentments of class divisions are somewhat reversed, with the servants sating themselves and the masters starving.

  2. 2

    In what ways is the play a "sonata"?

    Strindberg was inspired to write the play by Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, as well as Piano Trio No. 4, both of which were referred to as "ghost" pieces. Strindberg's play, a chamber play that anticipated the rise of expressionism, and marks the beginning of the modernist movement in drama, is determined more by psychological and thematic tonalities as opposed to realistic representation and cohesive plot. The play follows a narrative arc, but its relationship to reality is impressionistic, more determined by emotional concerns and existential meditations than by closure and logic. A sonata is defined as a piece of music to be played by a solo musician. In this way, The Ghost Sonata is true to its title: almost musical in its associative-ness, and a representation of one consciousness, rather than a naturalistic depiction of many different personalities; the voice of the play is that of the playwright's consciousness, a solo meditation on the nature of life and death.

  3. 3

    What elements of Strindberg's biography during the time he wrote this play are connected to its themes?

    Strindberg wrote The Ghost Sonata towards the end of his life, in the early 20th century, after he had begun to experience some mental instability. His mental health issues also coincided with a spiritual awakening, and an interest in mysticism. He referred to his artistic inclinations and inspirations as "the Powers," forces which led him to write about certain subjects. This play examines questions of spirituality, redemption, haunted mental states, anxiety about breached boundaries, life and death, and mysticism, particularly at the end of the play, when the Student prays for help from a higher power, and discusses the redemptive effect of Buddhism. In a way, the events of the play represent the ruminations of a playwright who is preoccupied with existential questions, questions of spiritual meaning, and questions about the world of the dead.

  4. 4

    What does the Girl reveal to the Student about the Hyacinth Room?

    The Hyacinth Room is an exceptionally beautiful room in the Colonel's house, filled with blooming hyacinths. It seems that the room is a reflection of the blooming youth of the young girl, as vital and alive as it is beautiful. However, in the final scene of the play, the Girl reveals to the Student that beneath the surface, the room has many defects. Because of the negligent servants, there are numerous things that go wrong with the room regularly, and she refers to it as "the room of ordeals."

  5. 5

    What are the Old Man's supernatural powers?

    The Old Man is described both as a devil and a wizard, and his reputation is that he has the ability to slip through locked doors and insert himself into places where he was not invited. In spite of his advanced years and limited mobility, this appears to be true, as he is somehow able to enter the house of the Colonel and land himself a seat at the ghost supper without an invitation. His ability to get his way also seems to extend to his social relations; at certain moments he is able to insinuate himself with people in unexpected ways, such as when he convinces the Student to work for him, even though the Student knows that he bankrupted his father, and when he has an easy time convincing the Colonel that he is not a nobleman or a colonel.