The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick Themes

Peter Handke

Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick deals with the themes of language and the nature of perception. Philosophers of the twentieth century have been very much concerned with the issue of language and the degree to which notions of “reality” or “truth” are shaped by the linguistic forms and signs of culture. Semiology, the study of signs, indicates that one’s environment is full of seemingly simple objects that represent meanings and convey messages: There is nothing that is merely what it appears to be. The clothes a person wears, for example, are not merely functional; they are signs that represent a certain economic class or social affiliation, an attitude toward life. The reality one perceives is the product of numerous subtle messages suggested by one’s environment. Joseph Bloch’s bizarre compulsion to transform random objects and details into metaphors, into signs, is merely an exaggeration of what occurs in normal perception of the world. Handke’s novel addresses a fundamental modern philosophical theme about the nature of reality.

Bloch’s tendency to perceive his surroundings as if they were metaphors or symbols also suggests the sensibility of a poet or writer who views the world as a source for the creation of fictions. In a novel or poem, an object is often not simply the thing itself but rather stands for something else, an idea or concept. A tree in a literary text, for example, is not merely a tree but a...

(The entire section is 587 words.)