The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

Powerful Essays
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

Knowing about the writer of a literary text can shape significantly the way that it is read. Consider the effect of the writer’s context on your understanding of The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum.

“As a writer of fiction Böll was interpreting history, creating patterns of meaning, ordering his material to enable his reader to make sense of it.” The experiences of Böll and his values that arose from these events have been influential on the content and themes of Böll’s novel, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. Böll experienced both the first and second world wars and the effects that these wars had on German society. Events such as the economic collapse in Germany post WWII, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the rise of student based urban terrorism in West Germany in the 1970’s and the increasing state controls to contain such alleged threats can be seen to influence the issues explored in The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. The novel is a comment on the press and the law, the labyrinth of social truth, the collision of fact and fiction and the power of language. Böll himself experienced the press first hand and this along with the experiences of Professor Bruckner, form the basis of his criticism directed at the powerful and hegemonic structures in society, in particular in relation to the police and the press and their corrupt relationship in the novella. Many of Heinrich Böll s views and attitudes, resulting form his context, are clearly visible in the novella through the portrayal of certain characters in positive or negative lights. The historical, social, economic and political context of Böll and West Germany at this time (1900’s) had a considerable effect on the issues Böll delves into in The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum and greatly affected my understanding of the novel.

Germany has a deeply rooted history with fascism in the form of Nazism in WWII (1939-1945). Böll was a teenager at the time of Hitler’s rise to power and he despised Hitler and everything that he stood for. “I hate the war and all those who love it”. Böll actively refused to join Hitler’s Youth as a boy, yet as a young man he was forced to join Hitler’s army. After the war, until the German Republic was formed, Böll lived under the Allied Occupation. These events led Böll to view politics with doubt and skepticism and he became vehement abo...

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... context that shaped Heinrich Böll, it becomes apparent to the reader that these conditions have greatly shaped the themes and ideas discussed in Böll’s, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. Main issues such as the corruption and collusion of powerful institutions in society, especially the police, press and industrialists have come through, with emphasis being placed on the misogynistic and patriarchal society and the effects this has on the treatment of woman, shown by Katharina. Böll brings his awareness of they way in which power and status are connected to wealth into the text and greatly condemns the abuse of power by the dominant groups in society, “Böll had little faith in any moral renewal coming from political or ecclesiastical hierarchies.” . Böll believed that “the function of literature is to challenge the arrogant claims to totality made by all ideological systems” . By incorporating his own context into his work, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Böll leads the reader to a greater understanding of this time period in West Germany, at the same time undermining the dominant systems and causing the reader to question and carefully examine power structures in society.
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