Helene Alving has spent her life suspended in an emotional void after the death of her cruel but outwardly charming husband. She is determined to escape the ghosts of her past by telling her son, Oswald, the truth about his father. But on his return from his life as a painter in France, Oswald reveals how he has already inherited the legacy of Alving's dissolute life. While the play's focus on religion, venereal disease, incest, and euthanasia shocked and repelled Ibsen's contemporaries, "Ghosts" is now considered of "immense historical importance." Maurice Valency found it groundbreaking, asserting that until "Ghosts," "regular tragedy dealt mainly with the unhappy consequences of breaking the moral code. "Ghosts," on the contrary, deals with the consequences of not breaking it."