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The Bottomless Pit

– Woyzeck Essay, Research Paper Topic# 1: A commentator has remarked, ? Clearly Buchner considered that while social revolution might help the Woyzeck?s of the world, it could hardly save them?. Is Buchner?s vision of the world of Woyzeck essentially fatalistic, a dystopia from which there is no escape?

– Woyzeck Essay, Research Paper

Topic# 1: A commentator has remarked, ? Clearly Buchner considered that while social revolution might help the Woyzeck?s of the world, it could hardly save them?. Is Buchner?s vision of the world of Woyzeck essentially fatalistic, a dystopia from which there is no escape?

Georg Buchner?s classic play ?Woyzeck?, unfinished, yet ahead of its time, has only this past century achieved notoriety for its visionary script and modernity. Buchner, a young radical of his time, intended this work to act as a social protest against the oppression and conditions of the impoverished. The work shows its audience the extreme tragedies that befall those trapped in poverty, those who have lost all hope, and therefore become acquiescent to their environment, which in turn furthers their hardship. Despite the main characters? pleas for aid, and or spiritual intervention, they are trapped in their situations. Buchner offers no hope to them of any kind for redemption or salvation.

Poverty is presented as a vicious cycle, one that destroys everything in its path. The obvious apocalyptic language and visions that Buchner employs in the play all stress the pessimism surrounding the characters, and the fatalistic and dystopic environment in which they are forced to survive. Woyzeck, the central protagonist, and his common law wife Marie, are left to the mercy of their society and manipulated by those around them. Characters like the Doctor, Captain, and Drum Major contribute to Woyzeck?s downfall, and the subsequent murder of Marie: the Doctor treats Woyzeck like an animal and is completely unconnected to his reality, the Captain tries in vain to morally reform Woyzeck, a man whose hunger is first and foremost on his mind and not the condition of his morality, and finally, the Drum Major humiliates Woyzeck by seducing his wife, and later assaults him in front of his peers. All three men cannot possibly understand Woyzeck?s state of mind and situation, and disregard him in all his pain and suffering. They mock his humanity, and ignore him when he asks for answers to the questions that might have eased his troubled and irrational mind.

The Captain plants the jealous seed of doubt and anger surrounding Marie?s infidelity in Woyzeck?s mind. The effect of this would not have been so successful if Woyzeck had not been already so desperate, destitute, and verging on madness. Woyzeck explains his dire existence to the Captain in scene one of the play:

Woyzeck: ?When you?re poor like us, sir?It?s the money, the money! If you haven?t got the money? I mean you can?t bring the likes of us into the world on decency. We?re flesh and blood too. Our kind doesn?t get a chance in this world or the next. If we go to heaven they?ll put us to work on the thunder? (Pp.108)

Here one sees that Woyzeck believes that even if he made it to the eternal paradise of heaven, his suffering would still continue, as he would be made to work on the thunder along with the rest of the poor. Woyzeck perceives no glimpse of a better life or future for his family, and accepts his fate to live as a slave to others. He allows the Doctor to perform weird and degrading experiments on him, such as placing him on a strict diet of only peas for three months, 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 Marie and their child.

There is no utopic blueprint in this play. Buchner does not create a new model for humanity, or for how poverty should be dealt with, he just shows it to us in all of its anguish. Woyzeck?s only escape from his pathetic life is his love for Marie. She is the only thing that he loves, and cherishes. Her affair with the Drum Major drives Woyzeck into insanity, and he ends up killing Marie, the only thing that kept him sane. Woyzeck says concerning self-control, that the poor can?t possibly do anything but obey nature?s call, much like the horse displayed at the fair: Man in his unidealized state.

Woyzeck: ?Oh, self-control. I?m not very strong on that, sir. You see, the likes of us just don?t have any self-control. I mean, we obey nature?s call. But if I were a gentleman and had a hat and a watch and a topcoat and could talk proper, then I?d have self-control all right. Must be a fine thing, self-control. But I?m a poor man.?

(Pp.108)

Marie is the victim of a lust she cannot control. She loves her husband but she is plagued by her passions for the Drum Major and the perks that come with it, like gold earrings and 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 make life worse than it is at present.

Drum Major: ?And you?re what I call a woman. Christ, we?ll set up a stud for drum majors.

Marie: Let me go

Drum Major: Wildcat

Marie [violently]: Don?t touch me!

Drum Major: The very devil?s in your eyes.

Marie: Oh, what does it matter? It?s all one.

Marie knows she will be punished for her sins. She cries out to God for help, to absolve 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 too much.

Marie: [turning pages of bible]? ?Nor was guile found in his mouth.? Dear God, don?t look at me. ?And the scribes and the Pharisees brought him a woman taken in adultery and set her in the midst?And Jesus said unto her: Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.? Dear God, I can?t. Almighty God, at least give me the strength to pray??And stood at his feet weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment.? Everything is dead. O Christ my savior, if only I could anoint thy feet.? (Pp.126-127)

Marie?s prayer does her no good, as soon after this passage Woyzeck brutally murders her and leaves her body by the pond outside town. Here again, Buchner offers nothing but a dystopic and brutal end for this woman, a victim of her own birth into poverty and the society that broke her spirit. There is no freedom from her suffering, there is no way out.

Marie?s despair is most profound in the play, and the pity for her character is strong, as with Woyzeck. Marie says: ?I?m a bad bitch. I could kill myself. ? Oh, what?s the use? We?re all going to the devil, all of us.? (Pp.114) Marie too, like Woyzeck had accepted her fate. She has allowed herself to acquiesce to society around her. She is no longer 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. Woyzeck and Marie have fallen as far as they are going too, their lives and personas are Woyzeck says: ??bottomless pits: you get dizzy when you look down?(pp.120)

Marie and Woyzeck?s child is another innocent victim caught in the middle of everything. Woyzeck seems to not really know his son as he is always out and doing things. Marie too, displays a torrid relationship with her child, and she spouts out language such as: ?You?re only a whore?s brat but I love your bastard?s face.? (Pp.110), and she frightens him with stories of child-thieving gypsy?s and bogeyman?s to make him ?sleep?. The young child unfortunately will also be caught in the cycle, and probably grow up to become another Woyzeck, orphaned and stuck under the boots of everyone else. This child?s destiny and end are shown as the conclusion for the in the operatic adapt ion of this play, Wozzeck by Alan Berg.

Woyzeck falls into insanity over Marie. When he is told of her dalliances with the Drum Major he replies,

Woyzeck: ?I?m a poor man Captain. She?s all I?ve got in the world. If you?re joking Captain??

Captain: Joking? I joke with you?

Doctor: Your pulse Woyzeck. Your pulse. Short, violent, skipping, and irregular.

Woyzeck: Captain, the earth?s as hot as hell. But I?m icy cold. Hell is cold, I?d bet on that. It can?t be true. The bitch. It can?t be? A fine day Captain, Look. A nice solid gray sky. Makes you want to knock a nail in and hand yourself. All because of one little train of thought.?(Pp118-119)

The other two men, besides Woyzeck are heartless and cruel to him. The Doctor rambles on about his medical condition, totally disregarding his feelings, and the captain teases him about his wife?s lover. As in this passage, one can find many examples of apocalyptic language about hell and heaven, and the world ending. On Page 109, Woyzeck comments that the sky is on fire, and believes voices are speaking to him out of the ground. Woyzeck later recounts this experience to Marie quoting the Bible, ? ?And behold there was a smoke coming from the land like the smoke of an oven??? This idea is again depicted when Woyzeck is about to stab Marie. Marie comments that the moon is rising red (the color of blood) and Woyzeck says it is like blood on an iron. It is at this moment that Marie realizes something terrible is about to happen, and senses her own death. Woyzeck?s wading deeper, and deeper into the water is another symbolic element of his further descent into the bottomless pit. Perhaps the most haunting passage out of this entire play, is one in which the little children ask a Grandmother to tell them a story, her idea of a fairytale is the most despondent, apocalyptic tragedy one could recount:

?Once upon a time there 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 he went away and searched day and night. And because there was nobody left he thought he?d go up to heaven. And the moon looked at him so kindly! But when he reached {it}?he found it was a piece of rotten wood. And then he went to the sun?and found it was a withered sunflower?and he wanted to go back to earth, but the earth was an upturned pot. And he was all alone. And he sat down and cried, and he?s sitting there still, all alone? (pp128)

These are the kind 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 with their parents, and the apocalyptic and dystopic way in which the world is presented compounds these ideas, suggesting an even worse future for them than the 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 been highly acclaimed in modern times. Woyzeck was to be a ?working ? class tragedy?, a slice out of real life. His protagonist, Woyzeck, is a man doomed to a pitiful existence, constantly plagued with questions that will never be answered. He has a psychosis in which he hallucinates, and this furthers his urge to murder his wife. Woyzeck is forced to deal with daily humiliation. This play is a tragedy, as there is no hope for Woyzeck. The murder of Marie forever breaks his lifeline; he is lost in the abyss around himself. He falls deeper and deeper into madness. He is a murderer, but he is also a victim of his society, as with his wife. The very construction of the play?s elements, the folk songs, the religious and secular language, all play a part in the overall dark motif that the play projects onto the viewer. Buchner wanted to portray real life, with very human characters, and his view is that society is to blame for all evils, that the world is essentially going to the dogs for these people, in a never-ending cycle of torment and affliction. Buchner also allows the reader no hope to fix this situation, as unfortunately the play was never finished and one shall never know, or feel, the complete conclusion and resolution of? Woyzeck?.

33d

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