Mephisto: The Real Villian
“Characterized by integrity: guided by a high sense of honor and duty,” the aforementioned quote is the definition of honorable, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. This definition alludes to the idea that like integrity, honorability must also be earned. In the novel Mephisto, written by Klaus Mann, the main character, Hendrik Hofgen struggles with his desire to stay true to his moral values and hold on to his integrity, while also trying to fulfill his dreams. At first glance, Hofgen seems to be the villain, and seems to be the furthest thing from honorable, but the continued exposure to his character provides the reader with the opportunity for further examination.
Throughout much of the novel, the reader witnesses Hofgen’s struggle to accomplish his goals; the most obstinate being his quest to attain fame. The way Mann narrates in third person allows readers to see inside the minds of all the characters, with special focus on Hofgen’s thoughts. Hendrick’s narcissism is painfully obvious from the beginning, but the pursuit of fame, seems to amplify some of his other unattractive qualities, giving him the appearance of a sociopath, and causing readers to constantly question his sanity. Hendrik’s frequently odd behavior fluctuates in different stages of his journey. In the beginning, Hofgen seems to have no remorse or empathy for others, exhibits extreme mood swings, is unable to control or express his emotions properly, he is promiscuous, promotes unhealthy relationships, and seems to have no regard for right and wrong. He constantly manipulates others and spends a good portion of his time carefully calculating his next move or contemplating the effect of a situation on his image. Changes in his personality can be observed most noticeably when he is meeting influential people, using people to gain stature, or when he is placed in an unfamiliar situation. Examples of this are when he meets Nicoletta,...
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