The Lieutenant Cannot Have A Good Time—Not With That Attitude

Standard

I’m pretty sure most of the people in our seminar agree that the protagonist of Lieutenant Gustl is terrible dude in general—he’s sexist, anti-Semitic, and frankly just plain rude. It’s as if he’s got some kind of superiority complex masking an inferiority complex, all masked by unnecessary aggression, especially if you note top of page 119 where he had that fateful encounter with the baker. As readers we can see this drama queen’s train of thoughts go from bad to worse to terrible in a matter of sentences (or ellipses, I suppose) and feel a sense of pity, or even annoyance (though I myself was snorting immaturely whenever he started saying “I came here to have a good time…” from the very first page because I thought that the next part of the meme “And I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now” fit very well into the story. Maybe someone can use this as their working title for their essay this week). However, I personally can’t believe that it wasn’t purposeful, that the author didn’t specifically write the soldier’s interior monologue to show his rather nasty mindset, especially considering how obvious of an anti-Semite the protagonist is when in fact Schnitzler himself was Jewish. It’s also pretty interesting that this is the first stream-of-consciousness narration (specifically designed to show a character’s various feelings and thought process) in German fiction, and that the narrator is a soldier who spends the whole night up contemplating suicide simply because he did not fight a baker for his honour. If we piece all these little tidbits together I’m sure we can come to the conclusion that this is a work satirizing the army’s bizarre priorities, and their obsessive need to follow their code of honour.

I’d love to read an essay on this, so if anyone’s thinking of this topic, let me know!

3 thoughts on “The Lieutenant Cannot Have A Good Time—Not With That Attitude

  1. Jenna

    I completely agree! It’s not a personal story, but more like a generalized critique of the army’s social standards. That meme works perfectly here too (lol)

  2. nicole ng

    Hey Yun! Great review you have here!! I am writing on Lieutenant Gustl specifically on Schnitzler’s use of internal monologues! I think superficially, it is clear that he is the sexist racist arrogant dude that you were talking about. But if we take a closer look, we see that he is in fact quite fragile, vulnerable, and just overall an insecure individual. I think being sexist, racist, arrogant, and all the other bad stuff that he is, is part of his job scope as a soldier back in late 19th century Austria. He is merely molding himself according to the standards that the military/society set for him. Oddly, he may think that the overall bad attitude and nasty demeanour is something to be proud of because that is how soldiers (of that time and place) are supposed to be. If you’re interested in a different perspective, please feel free to check out my blog post on Gustl! Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this 🙂

  3. Okay, I’ll admit I had to look up the meme…I get some of these things on Twitter (where I spend most of my social media time) but not many! Now I get it!

    Yes, I agree this story does look like a satire of the military at the time, and the whole institution of dueling for honour maybe even too. Plus the emphasis on classes and honour–what do you do when someone in the “wrong” class does something to damage your honour? How messed up is the system when that leads you to the point where you think the only way out is suicide?

    Someone also pointed out, though, that Schnitzler might also be satirizing many of us, who may not have exactly the same flaws but who have other embarrassing ones that would come out if our inner thoughts were revealed. Which makes sense to me too, and makes the story richer and more applicable to the present day!

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