A grey-haired spinster, frustrated and mortally ill at that, Ella has undertaken the long journey in order to persuade Erhart, who owes his education and everything else to her, to join her in her loneliness and thus alleviate the last weeks of her life. A heated argument on account of Erhart follows between the two sisters. Ella, with her meek and generous disposition, and the hard despotic Gunhild-both lay claim upon the young man. But he intends to live his life in his own way. Neither his mother's plans nor those of his aunt make any difference to what he himself wants to do. This is why Ella's visit leaves him cool. But it makes quite an upheaval in his father's fate. For no sooner does old Borkman confront his one-time sweetheart after such a lapse of time than he decides to pull himself together by his own efforts, without waiting any longer for restitutions from without.