How Is the Life of the Poor Depicted in Buchner's Play Woyzeck?

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There are many themes that Buchner brings to light through his play Woyzeck, but perhaps the most dominant one is his depiction of the poor. Through the attitude portrayed by the various characters, the development of the story and the language used, Buchner gives us a real sense of his feelings on this topic. Through this essay I would like to discuss these. Woyzeck is a tragic story of a barber who stabs his wife to death. The basic storyline itself already gives us an idea of Buchner’s opinion of the poor, as the things that happen are not to a rich man. The scene in the story which really best underpins Buchner’s theme is the scene with the Grandmother’s ‘black fairy tale’. As she tells of the orphan child who will receive no treasures from life we see the parallel this creates with Woyzeck. That he will receive only hardship due to being a member of the lower class. Many critics create a link between Buchner’s ideas expressed through Woyzeck, and Karl Marx. However the key difference is Buchner’s abandonment of any idea of revolution and a utopian society. Although Buchner is showing us the despicable treatment of the lower classes, and the likeness of the poor to animals, it is important to note that he does in fact favour the lower class over the middle class. He expresses that the poor are the purest class, although they are unrefined and animalistic. Buchner prefers this to the pretention of the middle class. What is of course ironic is that while Woyzeck behaves openly like a poor person, it is actually the other characters who behave more animalistic. Let us start by looking at the Officer. He pays Woyzeck for his work, but openly mocks him to his face, almost as if he wouldn’t understand. There is no tact used, no subtle hints, just blatant insulting of Woyzeck’s character and way of life. Where is the class in this? There is none. The pleasure that the officer takes in demoralising Woyzeck is far worse that anything Woyzeck has done. Woyzeck himself...
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