The Gustl In Me

I don’t think Lieutenant Gustl is a very swell guy. I think he’s proud, melodramatic, and a lot of talk. He spends most of the story contemplating his life, and even his own suicide. in a rather materialistic way. He thinks about how the papers would report it, how his friends would react, how awful the whole situation he’s in is, and, most of all, who he could blame for his unpleasant night and the consequent suicide. However, I could not help but enjoy peeking into his brain.

Lieutenant Gustl is the first piece of published literature to be completely written through a stream of consciousness. This basically means that Schnitzler sat down, set pen to paper, and didn’t stop writing until the story was over. The fact that I read Gustl’s absolutely absurd thoughts in a manner very similar to the way I feel my own thoughts, made it relatable in a way I almost wasn’t aware of. Gustl is not the first main character I didn’t like. I remember reading five books between starting and finishing The Catcher in the Rye just because I didn’t like it very much inside of Holden Caulfield’s mind. But it was very different with Gustl because, as I read the text, even as two completely different people, it was so innately clear that we were both human. It was almost as if I couldn’t separate my own sporadic train of thought from Gustl’s while reading this piece. And so, to make this excessively broad, how different would the world be if we could all understand each other this intimately?

I see that when I saw his rather superficial view of the world, I realized I didn’t like him very much. However, Gustl is most definitely not the only superficial person to exist. If I were to be reminded of the incredibly significant trait of humanity that I share with a person and therefore relate to every superficial person on the same level I related to Gustl, how much easier would it be for me to go about my life? How much harder would it be to hate someone if you always knew how much you had in common? That our differences (religion, opinions, race, gender) are just various manifestations of our similarities? Also, how does it all relate to Rousseau’s thoughts on the nascent man and Plato’s thoughts on the structures of society?

2 Thoughts.

  1. Hello Farah;

    I and my songwriting partner are producing some demos. It is paid work and should be fun. We are in Kits. Our work is on
    We have worked with several pop singers in Vancouver and the states. We got your name from the Vancity singing finalists. We are doing some EDM and ballads. If you are interested, it is very part time: once a month, perhaps. This is pre-demo work and we will collaborate to work on melody lines and work gradually through the song and see what fits and what doesn’t. We are looking for a contralto or mezzo and you seemed to fit the bill when we were looking at youtube videos.
    We contacted the winner from 2012 but unfortunately she is away on exchange from UBC – though we want to do some songs with both of you.
    My partner is a financial analyst and I am a lawyer.
    Let us know if you want to meet up – we’ll take you for coffee and introduce ourselves – we are both in Kits.
    We understand if you are busy.


  2. I hadn’t really thought about the story in this way until you mentioned it in class. I just took Gustl as someone I didn’t like and didn’t really think about how through sharing his thought process, one can come to empathize with him at least somewhat. I couldn’t get over his misogyny and anti-semitism, but you’re right, now that I think about it; nevertheless, I can understand his thoughts (well, not those ones), I can see myself in his vacillation, his fears, his insecurity, etc. And now, after reading your post, I think I see better what you were getting at with asking whether life would be better if we could see more of each others’ thoughts. My first thought when you asked that in class was, “no…that would be awful because then all that stuff you don’t want others to know would be out there” (and we all, I expect, have “that stuff”). But I think I can see better now how, based on possibly connecting with Gustl through this inner monologue style of writing, one might say that we could even maybe find a connection with someone we intensely dislike. Very thought-provoking.

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