Erika Kohut is a pianist who lives with her mother and teaches at a music conservatory. Erika’s consciousness is filled with an angry, absurdist, flow of impressions, evoking strong memories and emotions. The thirty-eight-year-old Erika is still a very compliant daughter to her overbearing mother, a controlling bully who manages every aspect of her daughter’s life.
Erika’s mother had anticipated that her daughter’s talent would enable her to realize her own ambitions for greater wealth and social status. Because Erika’s father is absent, taken away long ago in an agitated state to a mental institution, Erika’s mother places all her hopes on her daughter, imagining her as a famous musician, envied and idolized by everyone. Despite all her mother’s scheming and dreaming, however, Erika has not become a brilliant pianist. Years ago, for her debut, she chose to play a piece so esoteric that she alienated the judges, leading her away from performing and into teaching instead.
While doing everything possible to encourage Erika’s musical accomplishments, Erika’s mother warns her against boyfriends, whom she thinks would destroy all of Erika’s achievements. To discourage her daughter’s interest in men, her mother forbids her from wearing makeup and buying pretty things for herself, and she even threatens to harm Erika if she has anything to do with a man. Erika defies her mother’s control and her thrifty domestic regime by splurging on frivolous dresses that she has no intention of wearing. This leads to one of their bitterest quarrels. Erika then smothers her mother with apologetic kisses, but a suggestion of aggression and animosity remains against the woman she considers her jailer and tormentor.
Despite their disagreements, however, Erika is in many ways her mother’s daughter—as she makes her way home through the crowded streets of Vienna, she comports herself as a haughty queen subject to plebeian inconveniences. She is also competitive and envious; in high school she had reported to the authorities a...
(The entire section is 843 words.)