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


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!