The Lost Honour Of Katharina Blum Essay

, Research Paper

Heinrich Böll uses his novel, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, to attack modern journalistic ethics as well as the values of contemporary Germany. The structure of this novel is important to conveying his message. He uses a police report format, differences in chapter lengths, narrator or author intervention, a subtitle, and the extensive use of the ?puddle? metaphor. All these things contribute towards the message in the text.

The puddle metaphor is the most significant device used in the structure of the novel. The "puddle" means the collective information from all the sources. The narrator speaks of the information as ?fluid? and he also talks of the ?conduction? of the information coming from these different sources. There are different types of sources. There are major and minor sources, subterranean streams, and sources "that can never come together". The major sources are the police transcripts, Blorna (attorney) and Hach (public prosecutor). The minor sources are Katharina?s brother, Else Woltersheim, etc. The subterranean streams are the ?leaks? from the offices of the law e.g. police department. Of course this could also be criticizing contemporary Germany for allowing such things to occur. The sources "that can never come together" are the ones that can never be used in a court of law e.g. the phone conversations. The narrator or author uses this metaphor make the story flow and as a way a telling the reader why something has to be done e.g. the rerouting of the channels since there is something the reader has to know that happened before and the story or the channel cannot continue on it?s current path. In the end, the metaphor is used very effectively and the reader can see why it was necessary to think of all the information as just one puddle getting bigger and bigger. Of course the narrator makes it very clear that he does not want blood flowing through these channels since the blood as nothing to do with big picture, the big picture meaning the message that he is trying to convey.

As said before, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is in a police report format. The tone is very formal and it is extremely detailed and logical (stereotypically German). Right from the start the reader can sense a message the author is trying to convey. The subtitle How Violence Develops and where it can lead gives the reader a sense of a trail to follow, or in this case a channel. The story that takes place in this novel is in the period between Wednesday, February 20 and Sunday, February 24, 1974. Around this time is the celebratory period of Carnival. However there is no hint of any celebratory moods in the tone. It is all extremely formal. It can be said that the format of this book is related to how Katharina Blum herself lives her life. The possible reason that this story is set in this police report format is that Heinrich Böll wants the reader to know the facts since all the facts come together in the end. The story uses flashbacks so the reader knows what is happening somewhere else at the same time. It could be said that the reader is finding out all this information in the same order as the police investigation. It seems that the information is scattered and, just like the police, the reader has to try and piece together the puzzle. However, this is all done for the reader in the end. This is another example of how the ?puddle? metaphor is used. The information scattered means that the channel is always changing course.

The tone of this story, and even the text itself says that this is a police report, but the use of short and long chapters could possibly suggest something different. In the short chapters there are little ?bursts? of action, whilst in the longer chapters it goes into far more detail. This is like a newspaper in a way, the headlines with the ?bursts? of action, and the pages the story is continued on go into more detail, however, this reasoning is probably incorrect since the author is trying to attack the newspaper. It is however possible that the author is subtly trying to show how he thinks newspapers should be written, using these short and long chapters as examples. The police report really starts at about chapter 11. Before this, the narrator is giving the reader some background to the events. These first few chapters, up to the end of chapter 6, the story is set in the future i.e. the Sunday. Here is yet another example of the ?puddle? metaphor, this rerouting of channels.

The narrator does play a significant role in the novel. The narrator has access to the characters feelings and thoughts, so the information that is found in the story is more than what could be found in any police report. However we do not get all the feelings and emotions of the characters. It is hard to say if this is Böll directly talking to the reader or he is using a narrator to express his thoughts. The story starts off with it sounding like a narrator reading a news report. However later on the narrator is telling us how to read the book. "Let us proceed at once from this lowest of all levels to higher planes. Away with the blood. Let the excitement in the press be forgotten."(Chapter 7, p41). Other times where the author intervenes are whenever the ?puddle? metaphor is mentioned and in chapter 41. He uses an entire chapter to either give the reader a break from the action or to get the reader to thing of something in the background to all this action, which is somehow important to the reading. "To much is happening in this story. To an embarrassing, almost ungovernable degree, it is pregnant with action: to its disadvantage." (Chapter 41, p98). This chapter focuses on the wiretappers and what goes on in the ?psyche? of the wiretapper. The reader would never have thought of this, but perhaps this ?technical? interjection is rather important since the ?little plugs? are sources for the puddle.

The structure of The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum of course does not fully show how Heinrich Böll is attacking the modern journalistic ethics and contemporary Germany, that is all in the text of the story. However the structure that Heinrich Böll has put the text in is flawless, there can be no misinterpretation of the facts, unlike in newspaper reports. It is typically German in its style, every single detail given, so the reader can find out what the lost honour of Katharina Blum really is.


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