Ibsen presents Pastor Manders throughout the play as a preacher, a priest who tries to lecture the other characters and invite them to religion and morality. Manders is shown as a wise man try to guide this family as the father has been a womanizer and has been recently dead. Therefore, out of despair, the mother of the family, Mrs Alving tries to seek advice from Manders. In fact Ibsen dramatizes Mander as a religious, close-minded, mysterious preacher who clings to dogmatic beliefs and social standards which seem to be destructive rather than being effective.
The main aspect of Manders personality is his strong belief in duty. Throughout the play he invites the members of the family to stick with their duties. This aspect is highly emphasized so that it can be considered as a major theme in the play. When Mrs Alving turns to Manders trying to escape from home and enjoy her own life, it is Manders who dissuade her. As Manders quotes “ But a wife is not appointed to be her husband’s judge. It was your duty to bear humility the cross which a Higher Power had, in its wisdom, laid upon you.” (p 22). He believes that it’s her duty to tolerates all the humility which has fallen upon her. In order to save her good name and reputation no matter if it costs her life. Here Ibsen is criticizing Victorians who blindly had to follow the social standards without questioning them.
As a priest he seems to dictate his beliefs in social standards and religion to almost everyone without considering the consequences of his sermons, as he says, “ It is my duty to say to you” (p 23). In another conversation with Mrs Alving, Manders states, “ We have simply to do our duty, Mrs. Alving! And your duty was to hold firmly to the man you had once chosen, and to whom you were bound by the holiest ties.” (p 22). Ibsen here depicts another ugly side of tradition belief in duty. No matter how unfaithful the husband is, the wife is to stick to her duty as the mother of children and stay in marriage and tolerate the unhappy life which has been fallen upon her. It shows that woman are not allowed to have the freedom to live the life they can enjoy otherwise they would lose their reputation as a lady in society.
During the play Manders uses expression like “good forbid”,” God bless me” and “heaven forbid” to show his disapproval of any ideas which are against religion. The fact that he works in an orphanage believing that it is to serve a higher purpose clearly shows that he is a man of God. When he discuses whether to insure the orphanage or not with Mrs Alving, he says, “ The orphanage is to be consecrated, as it were, to a higher purpose.” (P 13). He looks at the idea of insurance for an orphanage in a religious perspective believing that because it is to serve a higher purpose, God will protect it and there is no necessity to be covered by insurance. He believes God protects the orphanage not the money paid to an insurance company. In another conversation with Mrs Alving, after she says that she had to tolerate her irresponsible husband only for “his little boy’s sake” and all he misfortune specially the fact that she had to send her son away just to be far from her “polluted home”, what Manders states is “ You have indeed had a life of trial.” (p 25). Therefore he holds the religious belief that God has been testing her and man has to tolerate the sufferings in this world.
Social standards of the victorian period seem be highly significant to Pastor Manders, no matter how destructive they could be In his conversation with Oswald when they discuss the principles of marriage, Manders strongly disagrees with a couple leaving together outside marriage. In fact he considers trial marriage as indecency. As he says “ how is it possible that a-a young man or young woman with indecency of feeling can endure to live in that way?” (p 20). Even when Oswald states that “ What are they to do? A poor young artist-a poor girl-marriage cost a great deal. What are they to do?”(p 20), he believes that even if a girl and a boy are poor, they have to perform social rituals. Otherwise they are not to live together. Love for Manders seems to be less important than social standards. Else where he values family and believe that the members of the family must be together. When Mrs Alving wishes that his son would grow up with and she wouldn’t have to send him away, Manders states that “ A child’s proper place is, and must be at the home of his fathers.” Manders seems to be ignorant of dirty behaviors of Oswald’s father.
In conclusion, Ibsen dramatizes Manders as the stereotype of a priest in the Victorian period who tries to persuade others to social standards, religious principles and duty without considering their destructive effects. In the beginning parts of the play he is not aware of many problems and keeps preaching the family towards what he thinks is right. However after he realises the reality he clings to religion and fate believing that it is their destiny. They have to accept and think that the world is the stage where people pass through many trials and they have no control over their destiny.