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?