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Woyzeck By George Buchner

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    A commentator has remarked, Clearly Buchner considered that while socialrevolution might help the Woyzecks of the world, it could hardly savethem. Is Buchners vision of the world of Woyzeck essentially fatalistic, adystopia from which there is no escape? George Buchners classic play Woyzeck,unfinished, yet ahead of its time, has only this past century achieved notorietyfor its visionary script and modernity. Buchner, a young radical of his time,intended this work to act as a social protest against the oppression andconditions of the impoverished. The work shows its audience the extremetragedies that befall those trapped in poverty, those who have lost all hope,and therefore become acquiescent to their environment, which in turn furtherstheir hardship. Despite the main characters pleas for aid, and or spiritualintervention, they are trapped in their situations. Buchner offers no hope tothem of any kind for redemption or salvation. Poverty is presented as a viciouscycle, one that destroys everything in its path. The obvious apocalypticlanguage and visions that Buchner employs in the play all stress the pessimismsurrounding the characters, and the fatalistic and dystopic environment in whichthey are forced to survive. Woyzeck, the central protagonist, and his common lawwife Marie, are left to the mercy of their society and manipulated by thosearound them. Characters like the Doctor, Captain, and Drum Major contribute toWoyzecks downfall, and the subsequent murder of Marie: the Doctor treatsWoyzeck like an animal and is completely unconnected to his reality, the Captaintries in vain to morally reform Woyzeck, a man whose hunger is first andforemost on his mind and not the condition of his morality, and finally, theDrum Major humiliates Woyzeck by seducing his wife, and later assaults him infront of his peers. All three men cannot possibly understand Woyzecks stateof mind and situation, and disregard him in all his pain and suffering. Theymock his humanity, and ignore him when he asks for answers to the questions thatmight have eased his troubled and irrational mind. The Captain plants thejealous seed of doubt and anger surrounding Maries infidelity in Woyzecksmind. The effect of this would not have been so successful if Woyzeck had notbeen already so desperate, destitute, and verging on madness. Woyzeck explainshis dire existence to the Captain in scene one of the play: Woyzeck: Whenyoure poor like us, sirIts the money, the money! If you havent gotthe money I mean you cant bring the likes of us into the world on decency.

    Were flesh and blood too. Our kind doesnt get a chance in this world orthe next. If we go to heaven theyll put us to work on the thunder (Pp.108)Here one sees that Woyzeck believes that even if he made it to the eternalparadise of heaven, his suffering would still continue, as he would be made towork on the thunder along with the rest of the poor. Woyzeck perceives noglimpse of a better life or future for his family, and accepts his fate to liveas a slave to others. He allows the Doctor to perform weird and degradingexperiments on him, such as placing him on a strict diet of only peas for threemonths, and he allows himself to be berated for relieving himself in the street.

    Woyzeck does all this just so he can earn a few measly dollars to support Marieand their child. There is no utopic blueprint in this play. Buchner does notcreate a new model for humanity, or for how poverty should be dealt with, hejust shows it to us in all of its anguish. Woyzecks only escape from hispathetic life is his love for Marie. She is the only thing that he loves, andcherishes. Her affair with the Drum Major drives Woyzeck into insanity, and heends up killing Marie, the only thing that kept him sane. Woyzeck saysconcerning self-control, that the poor cant possibly do anything but obeynatures call, much like the horse displayed at the fair: Man in hisunidealized state. Woyzeck: Oh, self-control. Im not very strong on that,sir. You see, the likes of us just dont have any self-control. I mean, weobey natures call. But if I were a gentleman and had a hat and a watch and atopcoat and could talk proper, then Id have self-control all right. Must be afine thing, self-control. But Im a poor man. (Pp.108) Marie is the victimof a lust she cannot control. She loves her husband but she is plagued by herpassions for the Drum Major and the perks that come with it, like gold earringsand a red necklace. When the Drum Major approaches Marie, at first she resists,but then she just gives into her appetites because in her mind nothing can makelife worse than it is at present. Drum Major: And youre what I call awoman. Christ, well set up a stud for drum majors. Marie: Let me go DrumMajor: Wildcat Marie violently: Dont touch me! Drum Major: The verydevils in your eyes. Marie: Oh, what does it matter? Its all one. Marieknows she will be punished for her sins. She cries out to God for help, toabsolve her of her indiscretions like Jesus did with the biblical adulteress.

    The only problem is she cannot truly repent of her affair as she enjoyed it toomuch. Marie: turning pages of bible Nor was guile found in his mouth.

    Dear God, dont look at me. And the scribes and the Pharisees brought him awoman taken in adultery and set her in the midstAnd Jesus said unto her:Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more. Dear God, I cant. AlmightyGod, at least give me the strength to prayAnd stood at his feet weeping,and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of herhead, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment. Everything isdead. O Christ my savior, if only I could anoint thy feet. (Pp.126-127)Maries prayer does her no good, as soon after this passage Woyzeck brutallymurders her and leaves her body by the pond outside town. Here again, Buchneroffers nothing but a dystopic and brutal end for this woman, a victim of her ownbirth into poverty and the society that broke her spirit. There is no freedomfrom her suffering, there is no way out. Maries despair is most profound inthe play, and the pity for her character is strong, as with Woyzeck. Marie says:Im a bad bitch. I could kill myself. Oh, whats the use? Were allgoing to the devil, all of us. (Pp.114) Marie too, like Woyzeck had acceptedher fate. She has allowed herself to acquiesce to society around her. She is nolonger responsible for he own actions as she accepts she will be going to Hell.

    She does not care any more because nothing has given her hope to do so. Woyzeckand Marie have fallen as far as they are going too, their lives and personas areWoyzeck says: bottomless pits: you get dizzy when you look down(pp.120)Marie and Woyzecks child is another innocent victim caught in the middle ofeverything. Woyzeck seems to not really know his son as he is always out anddoing things. Marie too, displays a torrid relationship with her child, and shespouts out language such as: Youre only a whores brat but I love yourbastards face. (Pp.110), and she frightens him with stories ofchild-thieving gypsys and bogeymans to make him sleep. The youngchild unfortunately will also be caught in the cycle, and probably grow up tobecome another Woyzeck, orphaned and stuck under the boots of everyone else.

    This childs destiny and end are shown as the conclusion for the in theoperatic adapt ion of this play, Wozzeck by Alan Berg. Woyzeck falls intoinsanity over Marie. When he is told of her dalliances with the Drum Major hereplies, Woyzeck: Im a poor man Captain. Shes all Ive got in theworld. If youre joking Captain Captain: Joking? I joke with you?Doctor: Your pulse Woyzeck. Your pulse. Short, violent, skipping, and irregular.

    Woyzeck: Captain, the earths as hot as hell. But Im icy cold. Hell iscold, Id bet on that. It cant be true. The bitch. It cant be A fineday Captain, Look. A nice solid gray sky. Makes you want to knock a nail in andhand yourself. All because of one little train of thought.(Pp118-119) Theother two men, besides Woyzeck are heartless and cruel to him. The Doctorrambles on about his medical condition, totally disregarding his feelings, andthe captain teases him about his wifes lover. As in this passage, one canfind many examples of apocalyptic language about hell and heaven, and the worldending. On Page 109, Woyzeck comments that the sky is on fire, and believesvoices are speaking to him out of the ground. Woyzeck later recounts thisexperience to Marie quoting the Bible, And behold there was a smokecoming from the land like the smoke of an oven? This idea is againdepicted when Woyzeck is about to stab Marie. Marie comments that the moon isrising red (the color of blood) and Woyzeck says it is like blood on an iron. Itis at this moment that Marie realizes something terrible is about to happen, andsenses her own death. Woyzecks wading deeper, and deeper into the water isanother symbolic element of his further descent into the bottomless pit. Perhapsthe most haunting passage out of this entire play, is one in which the littlechildren ask a Grandmother to tell them a story, her idea of a fairytale is themost despondent, apocalyptic tragedy one could recount: Once upon a timethere was a poor little boy who had no father or mother. Everything was dead,and there was nobody left in the whole wide world. Everything was dead, and hewent away and searched day and night. And because there was nobody left hethought hed go up to heaven. And the moon looked at him so kindly! But whenhe reached {it}he found it was a piece of rotten wood. And then he went tothe sunand found it was a withered sunflowerand he wanted to go back toearth, but the earth was an upturned pot. And he was all alone. And he sat downand cried, and hes sitting there still, all alone (pp128) These are thekind of fairytales the children are exposed to and nothing can be bleaker.

    Buchner does not even let the children escape either, they are doomed along withtheir parents, and the apocalyptic and dystopic way in which the world ispresented compounds these ideas, suggesting an even worse future for them thanthe one we have just seen. Buchner was a young man at the time of his death,only twenty-three, yet he managed to leave a legacy behind him, on that has beenhighly acclaimed in modern times. Woyzeck was to be a working classtragedy, a slice out of real life. His protagonist, Woyzeck, is a man doomedto a pitiful existence, constantly plagued with questions that will never beanswered. He has a psychosis in which he hallucinates, and this furthers hisurge to murder his wife. Woyzeck is forced to deal with daily humiliation. Thisplay is a tragedy, as there is no hope for Woyzeck. The murder of Marie foreverbreaks his lifeline; he is lost in the abyss around himself. He falls deeper anddeeper into madness. He is a murderer, but he is also a victim of his society,as with his wife. The very construction of the plays elements, the folksongs, the religious and secular language, all play a part in the overall darkmotif that the play projects onto the viewer. Buchner wanted to portray reallife, with very human characters, and his view is that society is to blame forall evils, that the world is essentially going to the dogs for these people, ina never-ending cycle of torment and affliction. Buchner also allows the readerno hope to fix this situation, as unfortunately the play was never finished andone shall never know, or feel, the complete conclusion and resolution ofWoyzeck.

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