An analysis of the relationship between Karl Thomas and the rest of society in Hoppla, wir leben! In this essay I shall investigate the relationship between the main character in Hoppla, wir leben!, Karl Thomas, and the rest of society in the play. I shall consider the different ways aspects of the play show that he is out of date when compared to his friends. I shall look at how his friends consider their previous beliefs and therefore his current ones childish and how he is seen as unrealistic and a dreamer.
In contrast I shall then look at how the children are portrayed and go on to consider how his beliefs are different from his friends but how both approaches are shown as having their good and bad sides. I shall then bring these together to show how the fact that Thomas is behind the times and how the audience relate to him is used to discuss the different possible approaches of achieving and ends and brings the audience to thing about the main question of the play.Order now
Throughout the play we see Karl Thomas in various situations, all of which he deals with from his point of view, which due to him being in a lunatic asylum for eight years, is behind the times. As will be discussed this combines with a stubborn refusal to accept and learn from the changes that have happened in the passing years, to conclude with Thomas’ suicide at the end of the play. Which may not have happened if he had listened to Albert Kroll (Act 2, Scene 2) and been patient.
Thomas’ lack of patience reflects in the words of many of the characters at various points throughout the play. They refer to themselves in the past as children. In fact Kilmann, when describing Thomas’ and others’ zeal for their cause says ‘Wie Kinder seid ihr. Den ganzen Baum wollen, wenn man einen Apfel haben kann.’ (Act 1, Scene 2) Before this, when Thomas is remembering the past to him, Kilmann also says, ‘Was fï¿½r Kinder wir waren.’ (Act 1, Scene 2), this implies that they knew nothing at the time, and that they were perhaps headstrong and didn’t understand the situation they were in, which currently applies to Thomas, as he has not changed in the eight years.
The same sentiments are repeated by Eva Berg when Thomas tells her she has changed in the eight years they’ve been apart: ‘Wir kï¿½nnen uns nicht mehr leisten, Kinder zu sein.’ (Act 2, Scene 1). The idea of previously being children is followed with the idea of learning from experience and changing to fit in with the situation in society today. When Thomas criticises Kroll that he talks like an old man, Kroll replies that ‘Man lernt.’ Eva also speaks of the importance of knowledge in order to change things (Act 2, Scene 1) and Kilmann also tells Thomas that one learns from their experiences (Act1, Scene 2).
The idea of learning and wisdom is not only contrasted by that of childhood, but also of dreaming. Thomas is written off by both Kilmann and Berg as a dreamer, ‘Immer noch der hitzige Trumer’ (Act 1, Scene 2) Kilmann says – suggesting that all Karl’s dreams are mere fantasy and could never be realised. Berg also criticises Thomas’ for dreaming of running away somewhere where people know nothing of politics. However, in the Radiostation scene, we see how Thomas’ dreaming could mean greater and better use for the new technologies – we see that with direction his headstrong dreaming could do some good – but as the Telegraphist says ‘Wir werdens nichtndern’ (Act 3, Scene 2).
Ironically, we see that the children in the play present the idea of the new reasoning and objectivity that Thomas’ friends want him to adopt. When Thomas describes the war to them from his subjective experience they are shocked but then after asking him about the numbers on both sides, criticise their side for being stupid enough to think they could win the war when they were so outnumbered (Act 2, Scene 1). In Thomas’ reasoning, however, being outnumbered gives nobility to the fight – as we can see from his focus upon ‘die Tat’ as a means to bring about change, one his friends do not agree with. In fact he seems to be more similar to the right-wing student in that respect, another example of childish impulsiveness, perhaps, as the student is not portrayed as someone wise with a full appreciation of their circumstances.
From the start Thomas seems appalled that his friend’s have lost their revolutionary zeal and seems bent on starting a revolution single-handed. When Thomas expresses the idea that Kilmann cannot change things from a position of power within the establishment Kilmann tells him that ‘Das Leben spult sich nicht in Theorien ab. Man lernt aus seinen Erfahrungen.’ (Act 1, Scene 2). A message repeated to him both by Berg and Kroll. However, it seems Thomas does not learn and he regularly puts forward the former ideas of die Tat and die Masse which are written off by others as useless and non-existent respectively. For example, when he mentions ‘Die Masse’ to Kilmann (Act 1, Scene 2) Kilmann says there is no such thing, and even when talking to Kroll, Kroll admits that ‘zu wenig sind wir’ (Act 2, Scene 2).
Thomas’ thought centres on ‘die Tat’ in the course of the play, most notably when talking to Kroll he says ‘Einer muï¿½ ein Beispiel geben’. Kroll sidelines this by saying that everyone does, every day but Thomas is focussed on the individual deed to inspire others to revolution. Not the working away at achieving his ends slowly the way Kroll tries to. Although this act, which he decides will be the assassination of Kilmann, could be seen as admirable, through the eyes of his counterparts we see it as a waste of life that would not change anything due to the fact people just like, or perhaps worse than, Kilmann would just step into his shoes. Die Tat is also criticised by the objectively thinking children, who complain that all of these important things that have happened in history are just dates to them, and of no real importance at all.
So it seems to Thomas that his friends have given up their belief in the cause. Whereas to the audience it seems they have become more realistic about what they want to achieve. He asks Berg ‘Was ist dir…heilig?’ (Act 2, Scene 1) and she asks why he uses ‘mystische Worte menschliche Dinge’ she also observes that ‘Schon wieder gebrauchst du Begriffe die nicht mehr stimmen.’ (Act 2, Scene 1), Kroll annoys him because to Thomas ‘Nur der Glaube zhlt.’ whereas Kroll is fighting for the people that his changes will benefit, not for an abstract ideal (Act 2, Scene 2).
In conclusion, arguments for different approaches are constantly being weighed up in the play. Thomas represents those of a past ideal and his friends those of the ‘new’ method. We see the contrast between the speed that Thomas comes to the conclusion that he must assassinate Kilmann to inspire others to revolutionary activity, in comparison to the eight years of change that the others have dealt with and spent adjusting their approach to work and make changes in the current social climate.
But despite Thomas’ seemingly rash decision we see that he still has some zeal to change whereas the others, although working towards change seem in danger of just doing what they can and not making a difference because the government will not let them. Thomas’ impatience is emphasised by the fact his thinking is referred to as that of a child’s, through the other characters saying that they were like children at the time and have learnt since then. This coincides with the idea of Thomas as a dreamer who thinks in terms of abstract ideas and fanciful ideas that have no basis in reality. On the other hand it is also suggested that perhaps not having dreams or abstract ideals to follow means that nothing will happen and things will stagnate – perhaps wisdom is really just acceptance of the situation?
And it also depicts children as having internalised the new way of thinking and being objective about things instead of being impulsive and impatient but not necessarily accepting their situation. Overall, despite the fact Thomas is the main character and we should therefore relate to him to a greater extent than any of the other characters, we see him as old fashioned and also stubborn enough not to listen to people who have been experiencing what he has not for the last eight years. We do not necessarily adopt his ideals and viewpoint, but we also do not dismiss them out of hand. We see the arguments for and against the different approaches to change being weighed up in the play and we see the way Thomas is portrayed as equally ambiguous. We do not love him or hate him as we are too busy considering the greater good and which is the best means of achieving it.