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A Satire of the Industrial Workers
A satire is a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn. Satiric works can be seen in Aesop s animal fables and in Greek drama such as Aristophanies. It wasn t formally introduced as an aspect of writing until Roman poetry, though. Satires vary in severity from a simple verse to Orwell s classic assault on Communism, Animal Farm. In Action Will Be Taken , Heinrich B ll puts forth a mild mockery of the work force.
Action Will Be Taken centers on the unusual work experience of a so- called worker . In the beginning of the short story, the narrator, who is the main character, expresses the fact that he is inclined more to pensiveness (serious thought) and inactivity than to work . He is forced to work, though, when financial difficulties arise. On one of these occasions he applies to Wunsiedel s factory. The application includes a breakfast and several questions that focused on his work ethics. He lies on all of them, depicting himself as a hard-worker that needs to be in the-mix-of-things at all times. For several weeks he operates telephones, saying into them variations of the phrase Action must be taken! One day he hesitates in reciting this phrase when Mr. Wunsiedel enters the room. The boss shouts at him for not obeying the rule and than dies of a heart attack. At the funeral, the narrator realizes the job that he was born to have, a professional mourner.
The satire becomes apparent when you observe the actions of the characters. Throughout the story there is actually only one real action, and that was unintentional. The narrator was depicted as lazy and untruthful. He is constantly attempting to find variations of the phrase, Action will be taken! The funny thing is that he does nothing but answer phones. Next are Mr. Broschek and Mr. Wunsiedel s secretary. These two are devoted workers who were always occupied in the past. Despite this fact, neither one actually does any thing throughout the story. The same is true for many of the coworkers, for the story of their lives is more important to them than their lives . This is probably because they aren t actually doing anything at this time in their lives. Mr. Wunsiedel doesn t really do anything either. He exaggerates his daily mourning routine to make it seem as if he is actually occupied with some important task. He does, however, provide the only action of the story – his death. I see the author depicting three types of modern day industrial workers; those who are simply lazy (the narrator), those who have been constantly occupied their entire lives with what they have done or will do; and, those who make an attempt to create the impression that they are actually doing something. In all three cases the workers aren t doing anything in their current position.
There are two more satirical situations. One is in the product of the factory. The soap represents the cleanliness of modern civilized industry. The humorous thing is that nothing actually happens to make the industry unclean. A final example of satire in this story can be seen in the narrator s choice for a new career. Ultimately by taking on a position that requires nothing to be done (professional mourning), he is admitting that what he does best is nothing. Applied to what he represents in the story, this signifies that in general the entire workforce is best at doing nothing.
This story provides an excellent example of a literary satire. Its main focus is on pointing out the uselessness of industrial workers. I believe that once the parallel between the characters in the story and the various aspects of industry is understood, this story becomes quite interesting and amusing. I believe that the quality of this short story and B ll s contribution to the rebirth of German literature makes him a deserving recipient of the Nobel prize.