Paul Bereyter Analysis

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W.G. Sebald creates a lasting piece of literature in Paul Bereyter by using detailed descriptions of the world around him to distract the reader from his growing depression and seclusion. Like in the story of the boy who cried wolf, Bereyter’s initial suicide attempt numbed people to his later signs of depression and eventual death. His connection to and description of nature draws the reader, and Bereyter himself, into believing in his false world of bliss. This false world comes to an end when Bereyter loses his sight and consequently his connection with nature. In Vladamir Nabokov’s essay Good Readers and Good Writers, he defines literature as a place between fantasy and reality. He says: “Literature was born not the day when a boy crying…show more content…
He creates a new world for Paul Bereyter in which it doesn’t matter what’s real or not real; all that matters is Bereyter’s perception of the world. However, he also uses Bereyter’s connection to nature to downplay his ever-advancing depression. “Paul was in any case in the habit of opening the windows wide, even when the weather was bad, indeed even in the harshest cold of winter, being firmly convinced that lack of oxygen impaired the capacity to think” (Sebald 34). What matters to Bereyter is the world around him and his closeness to it. He goes to great lengths to be closer to nature, even spending his time scraping paint off the windows of his classroom so that he and the students could see out. This happens at a point in which Bereyter’s students described him as a mechanical human (35). He uses nature to distract himself when his job becomes too stressful or when life seems too structured. By looking out the windows and feeling the wind on his face, he connects himself to the outside world that he longs to be in. The students see him as he would be if he were in the outdoors and therefore are unable to realize that Bereyter is unhappy and uncomfortable in his current…show more content…
“He not only did not attend church on Sundays, but purposely left town, going as far as he could into the mountains, where he no longer heard the bells” (36). Sebald mentions earlier that he and the other students were often told to pray for Bereyter because he was a “lost soul” (36). It becomes hard for him to control his aversion to the church and he is ostracized because of it. He immerses himself in the mountains to drown out the incessant depression the town causes him. This was not the first time he’d felt that isolation. After being told that he wouldn’t be able to teach, “He experienced that insuperable sense of defeat that was so often to beset him in later times and which, finally, he could not shake off” (49). He had wanted to be a teacher his whole life and being told he wouldn’t be able to be one caused him to stumble deeper into depression. While working as a tutor soon after this time, he lost a substantial amount of weight and appeared sullen and downtrodden. It wasn’t, however, until later that he first tried to commit
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