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The disassociated man in Buchner's Woyzeck and Toller's Hinkemann Egert, Eugene


Georg Büchner, an anomaly in his own century, is frequently viewed as a percursor of Expressionism. With this fact in mind it is the purpose of this thesis to investigate and compare Büchner's Woyzeck and the expressionistic drama Hinkemann by Ernst Toller, noting the same basic theme which, however, gives rise to dissimular solutions. The method of investigating these analogous dramas was essentially one of research into and interpretation of the primary sources. Secondary sources (which were numerous for Büchner but scarce for Toller) were consulted as an aid in the exposition of Woyzeck and Hinkemann as separate plays. There was, however, practically no secondary material available relating directly to the problem under discussion in this work. The conclusions reached were based on private examination of the two dramas. Woyzeck is a poor soldier of the 19th century. Out of love for his "wife" he allows himself to be used as subject for a doctor's scientific experiments. Despite Woyzeck's care and passionate love for her, Marie succumbs to the desires of the sensual drum major. Thus Woyzeck not only experiences physical abuse, but also mental anguish as a result of Marie's infidelity. Through this lonely, senseless suffering his values are put into question. Woyzeck despairs of life and expresses his total rejection of the world by murdering Marie and then by drowning himself. Hinkemann, also a common soldier, returns home from the First World War emasculated by a bullet. Fearing the loss of his wife's love and respect, he too stoops to the level of an animal to compensate for his sexual incapacity. Desiring to provide her a few pleasures, Hinkemann hires himself out to a showman who utilises him in a repulsive circus act. However, his sensual wife, like Marie, also proves unfaithful. Her seducer, Grosshahn, causes Hinkemann's prime suffering by causing him to believe that Grete laughed at him in his debased condition. Although finally convinced that she did not laugh, Hinkemann, like his counterpart Woyzeck, fails to see any good purpose in the world and gives up. He no longer has the strength to struggle and asks his wife to leave him. But Grete, afraid to live alone, commits suicide. Hinkemann goes on existing. Thus the basic pattern is the same in both: Woyzeck and Hinkemann, two soldiers in the prime of life, allow themselves to be misused for the sake of a woman's love. Both lose this love which alone gives, their life meaning. Forced into total isolation by an evil and loveless world, both Woyzeck and Hinkemann no longer see any purpose in life, but the reaction of each is different. Woyzeck reacts violently to this discovery of the lack of good purpose in the universe. Out of vengeance he wants to hurt the world that has hurt him. He ends in complete, active nihilism. Hinkemann, a man weakened by fate, reacts less violently: he comes to a passive acceptance of meaninglessness in the world. For him, struggle is in vain. Thus there is a difference in solution, resulting from an important distinction which lies at the core of these plays. Büchner here deals with one basic theme: isolation ultimately leading to nihilism. Toller, in addition, deals with the problem of the complete man. The loss of either the animal or the spiritual aspect of man's nature renders him ridiculous. And for Toller, it is this ridicule which isolates man. Thus his play is more complex, it has ramifications of the problem which Büchner does not explore. Also contributing to the dissimilar solutions are the authors' different views of life. Woyzeck's nihilistic end is entirely in consonance with Büchner's fatalistic and utterly hopeless view of life. Similarly, Hinkemann's pessimistic resignation corresponds to Toller's poignant disillusionment (but not complete despair) with mankind.

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