What is the effect of the many small scenes in Woyzeck? What role does religion play in this work? What was Buchner's purpose in inserting folk songs and parables?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Let's take the questions one at a time:

1. What is the effect of the many small scenes in Woyzeck?

First, it's interesting to know that this play's author died before he really finished it, and other people had to make their best effort at cobbling together the ending....

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Let's take the questions one at a time:

1. What is the effect of the many small scenes in Woyzeck?

First, it's interesting to know that this play's author died before he really finished it, and other people had to make their best effort at cobbling together the ending. So by its very nature, the play is a hodgepodge of content!

We notice the many small scenes that seem to pile on top of each other, so different from the typical narrative style of most plays.

The effect, first, is that the whole story comes together like a mosaic or a kaleidoscope. Through this story's segmentation into tiny scenes, we understand more deeply the fragmented, chaotic, bewildering, dreamlike, nonsensical nature of not just Woyzeck's life and mind but also of the human condition. It's just like Woyzeck says to his friend: "Everything's spinning before my eyes."

Second, the fragmented scenes help build tension and serve to accelerate the action as the story reaches its climax with Woyzeck's murder of his girlfriend. With every switch to a new scene, we're anxiously accelerating through Woyzeck's life, eager to see how it all will inevitably end in disaster.

 

2. What role does religion play in this work?

Religion provides a frightening tone of doom and guilt to the play, amplifying the characters' experience of shame and bewilderment. We notice biblical quotes and imagery throughout. For a good example of this, check out the bizarre, preaching speech made by the first apprentice in Scene 11 while Marie is dancing and the narrator is watching. 

 

3. What was Buchner's purpose in inserting folk songs and parables?

Besides adding to the mosaic-like, fragmented nature of the play, these songs and parables vaguely hint at the action of the play as well as giving a Romantic tinge to the story. For example, take a look at Scene 18, toward the end of the play. The young girls sing about a parade on a holiday, and then the grandmother tells a sad parable with a totally different mood about a child searching for companionship and meaning only to find absolutely nothing. These two snippets together (the happy song and the sad story) prepare the reader to see the main character's once-happy relationship end in a violent murder.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team