Long Essay- The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
Authors often use characters within their novels to show the consequences of challenging cultural boundaries and, in turn, display their own personal concerns. It is not uncommon for characters to reflect an author’s ideology regarding social groups in their contemporary time periods. It is clear that this is certainly the case with the 1975 novel The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, (also referred to as How Violence Develops and Where it Can Lead), written by the German Author, Heinrich Boll. The Lost Honour is, on the surface, an attack on yellow journalism and the damage it causes to the lives of the people reported on. However, with a more in depth analysis of the novel we are able to see that Boll is in fact using his characters to reflect his own personal views on the stereotypical social groups in contemporary Germany. Boll himself has described The Lost Honour as “a pamphlet disguised as a novel”. Through the use of the seemingly ‘objective’ third person limited narrator, we are shown the consequences of challenging and conforming to the expected gender requirements. On one hand we are presented with Katharina Blum, a woman who rejects the majority of expected stereotypically feminine traits that are place upon women and the resulting slander upon her name in doing so. In contrast however, Boll also demonstrates the consequences of abusing power, which is stemmed from being a male, through the character of Totges, an example of a yellow journalist. It is Totges’ own assumptions of Blum and his vulgarly masculine ways which ultimately leads to his murder. It is important to remember that these narrative developments reflect Bolls own personal views formed from his own context. There are many significant occurrences in Bolls life, such as his time in Hitler’s army, which would suggest that he despises the inequality of power among all German citizens as is reflected by the contrast between Blum and Totges. Bolls sympathy and admiration for economically lower class citizens, most likely due to the economic hardship faced by his father, is presented through the hardworking nature of Blum. However, he also shows the suspicion cast upon Blum because of her comfortable living standards as a result of her independent ways. This suggests that he is concerned with people’s inability to except rises in class without assuming something sinister or unlawful has occurred in the process. Through the use of his characters in The Lost Honour and Bolls personal life experiences we are able to see his concerns regarding the cultural boundaries within Germany.
Boll has demonstrated a sympathetic leaning towards females through the lack of power and rights given to his title character Katharina Blum in correlation with his own political views. It is clear that within The Lost Honour it is Blum who we are supposed to sympathise with. This is clear through the satirical tone used by the less then ‘objective’ limited third person narrator. One of the things implied about women, specifically Blum, repeatedly throughout the novel is the fact that they were created to satisfy men’s sexual needs and little else. An example of this is during the questioning of Blum about her relationship with Gotten as Beizmenne allegedly asked Blum “Well, did he fuck you?” Blum replies with “No, I wouldn’t call it that”. Boll has challenged the idea of sex being about women satisfying men by having Blum suggest that a sexual act did occur, but it was rather for the enjoyment of both parties. This is an example of Boll using Blum to challenge the power shift between women and men. However, due to Blum’s suggestion of equality of men and women sexually, for the rest of the novel she is punished by being referred to as promiscuous and derogatory names such as “moll” and “bitch” which defame her existence. It is further implied that Blum is inferior to men with the following News headline; “Murderers moll won’t...
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