New Woman: Book Synopsis

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Fallada uses Mia Pinneberg to unveil the challenges associated with the expectations of the “New Woman” in the 1920’s-1930’s. Mia embodies the modernized women conceptualized in Germany post-World War I. Her aspirations to climb the bourgeois social ladder stem from a society obsessed with aesthetic beauty, and related pressures from being a woman in a high-class society. She mimics the display of the “New Woman” and therefore is driven to bear the weight of all interrelationship problems related to this identity, including the alienation from others.

The “New Woman” is “appealing in her appearance” (Moeller 35), independent, and changes all assumptions about femininity. She is one who “go[es] to the cinema in the evenings… buy[s] Elegant World and the film magazines,” (Wehrling 721-723) she can be seen as promiscuous and sexually liberated. Mia Pinneberg models all these adjectives. She wears her “brown suit and smart hat” (Fallada 278) voiding any feminine assumptions, she formerly worked as a hostess at a night club, and even upon aging, continues her quest for social superiority through her constant evening parties and booze. Mia is the independent “New Woman” that bounces around from lover to lover with only her self-interest in mind. She is currently using Jachmann, her “current lover” (Fallada 107) for solely her own pleasures, and openly admits that she “sleep[s] with him” (Fallada 107). All of these aesthetic qualities and aspirations demonstrate how society saw the “New Woman.” However, underneath the mass stereotype for modernized bourgeois women, the pressures and expectations create an alienation from themselves, others and society itself as displayed through Mia.

What the appealing side of her “New Woman” facade doesn’t show is her typical family dynamic. We see these struggles through Mia’s relationship with her son. Because Mia has become self-driven, the desire for a nuclear family has diminished, and she would ultimately “turn...
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