Fearing rejection by her community, Helene Alving stayed with her philandering husband up until his death. She finds out that her son Osvald not only has congenital syphilis, but is in love with the maid without knowing she is his half-sister. Eventually Mrs. Alving must face the cruel choice of euthanizing her own son as he descends into a syphilitic madness. As with Ibsen's A Doll's House, Ghosts was an intentionally controversial work, through rather than being seen as a bold look at a forbidden topic, it was seen by many as merely shocking and indecent, with one critic describing it as "a dirty deed done in public." At the time, the mere mention of venereal disease was scandalous, but to inflict it upon a character who abides by the moral code of society was inconceivable.