Monday, January 28, 2008

Central to both Hofmannsthal’s “tale” and “The Man Without Qualities” is a concern for what happens to the individual when larger, wider spreading societal problems or trends arise. The advent of industrialism was followed by the rise of an affluent middle class that typified much of Viennese culture at the turn of the century. Both Ulrich and the Merchants sons portray characters alienated by the rise of this culture, yet in very different ways. The Merchant’s son embraces the aestheticism of the time to such an extent that value he places on the upkeep of his material, aesthetical, or ornamental surroundings keeps him from developing as a social individual. Ulrich, on the other hand, experiences alienation because he is skeptical of his generation and their culture. While the Ulrich’s outcome remains undetermined we see the Merchant son grow self-conscious and aware of his alienated lot, fearing the judgment of his paid servants. Yet ultimately he is unable to better himself and he dies alone.

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