Places Discussed

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 611

*West Germany

*West Germany. Federal Republic of Germany, created when Germany was partitioned after World War II. Out of the rubble of the war, West Germany has become a modern industrial state with a vibrant industrial base. A new landscape has been created, one that papers over the tortured past...

(The entire section contains 1942 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Clown study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Clown content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

*West Germany

*West Germany. Federal Republic of Germany, created when Germany was partitioned after World War II. Out of the rubble of the war, West Germany has become a modern industrial state with a vibrant industrial base. A new landscape has been created, one that papers over the tortured past of the Nazi Third Reich and the war. The novel’s flashbacks to the Germany that was under the control of the Nazis expose how readily the German state could change from its embrace of Adolf Hitler to its embrace of democracy. Over the years, Hans Schnier’s father becomes rich by extracting coal from German soil. The family remains seemingly unaffected by the political and economic turmoil that consumes the country because of this exploitation of the land.

*Bonn

*Bonn. New capital of West Germany that is the hometown of the clown Hans Schnier, who returns there a broken man. To Schnier, Bonn becomes the symbol for all that is corrupt with the new West Germany. He became a successful clown outside Bonn; he returns there disillusioned and takes up residence in the apartment that he previously shared with the love of his life, Marie Derkum. Schnier has not performed in his hometown. He had always ventured to other German cities such as Cologne and Hannover to make his livelihood as a clown. He is thus out of place in this city. By the end of the novel, he is reduced to begging for money at a train station, while hoping that Marie will come back to him.

Apartment

Apartment. Schnier’s home in Bonn. From there he converses on the telephone with the outside world—his parents, other family members, his agent, and childhood friends. Most of the novel is set in this terra-cotta apartment, which in the past Schnier normally lived in only three or four times a year. In his traveling days, he usually feels more at home in hotels than in his own apartment. The isolation of the apartment speaks to the separateness that Schnier feels toward the whole country.

Railway station

Railway station. At the end of the novel, Schnier puts a thick layer of makeup on his face and carries his guitar to the Bonn train station, where he begs for money and waits for Marie to return from Rome with her new husband. He is determined to wait for Marie in the hope that she will save him from the destitute existence into which he has spiraled. He is most definitely at the crossroads of his life. For Schnier, the past, the present, and the uncertain future will converge at the train station.

*Rome

*Rome. Capital of Italy to which Marie and her new husband, the prelate Heribert Züpfner, go to celebrate their Roman Catholic faith and their marriage at the center of the Catholic world. They may even hope to have an audience with the pope. When Züpfner takes Marie away from Schnier, he persuades her to rekindle her Catholic faith. Schnier also has visions of himself in Rome asking to see the pope. Rome is a symbol for the religious establishment that creates a wall between Schnier and the woman he loves.

*East Germany

*East Germany. Democratic Republic of Germany, created when Germany was partitioned after World War II. East Germany is depicted as a puppet state of the Soviet Union in which no one is allowed to express views that differ from the Communist Party line. On a visit to East Germany, Schnier cannot bring himself to conform by performing sketches that are critical of capitalism. To do so would run counter to his integrity as an artist.

Literary Techniques

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 245

Spoken discourse is Boll's primary method to portray character development, to unveil thematic concerns, and to regulate the "action" of the novel. Using first person narration and interior monologue, Boll presents with precision and grace the life and symbolic death of his protagonist Hans Schnier. Moralist and satirist, Boll relies on his stark, realistic prose to create a powerful image of the individual's struggle against conscience and conformity. Satire is clearly Boll's most effective weapon to define the character of Hans as well as to accentuate the ills of modern society. Through the extensive use of flashback, the reader relives the events of the past which have formulated the protagonist's present predicament, and the persona of the "Clown" becomes frightfully understood.

Arranged in a complex, often disorienting sequence, the novel demands the attention and commitment of the reader as part of the creative experience. In essence, Boll is forcing the reader to accept the "action" of the novel as an extension of reality, while granting the reader access to the protagonist's ultimate rejection of society. Obsessed with the concept of self, Hans is portrayed as a singular figure maintaining a private existence; consequently, his only contact with the outside world is by the telephone, which becomes a symbol of his isolation. Through a series of telephone conversations, preceded, followed, and at times interrupted by the protagonist's monologues, Hans vents his rage against a society which will not forgive and in return will not be forgiven.

Social Concerns

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 241

Deeply affected by the horror and the extent of human misery he encountered during World War II, Boll emerged from the experience with a sense of moral outrage toward political and social injustice as well as a deep compassion for the defenseless and the oppressed. Boll clearly professed a belief in the intrinsic responsibility of the writer to the general public and with genuine conviction was a leading and influential activist and spokesperson for a humane, democratic society. In his early work, Boll primarily focused on the absurd futility of war and depicted in his fiction either wartime experiences or the difficulties encountered by a defeated people attempting to regain a semblance of their former lives. Gradually, however, Boll broadened his perspective to analyze both the historical development and the troubled aftermath of the war and to question, often with embittered cynicism, the direction and ideology of the "new" Germany.

In The Clown, Boll is commenting on prevalent trends in modern German society that he finds threatening, distasteful, and at times abhorrent. Suspicious of intention and mindful of past experience, Boll points a disparaging finger at both church and state, and through the character of Hans Schnier, he incessantly rails against the narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy, and opportunism dominating the West German society of the novel. Relentless in his criticism, Boll simultaneously offers the reader a despairing view of the present as well as a pessimistic and disheartening vision of the impending future.

Literary Precedents

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326

Throughout his career, Boll acknowledged the influence of numerous literary figures including German as well as non-German authors indicative of his familiarity with and appreciation of world literature. Descending from the German narrative tradition associated primarily with Heinrich Heine and Thomas Mann, Boll has also been compared in his concern for social justice with Bertolt Brecht; however, his contemporary rival in German letters was unmistakably Gunter Grass whose body of work mirrors Boll's in exploring the terrain of the postwar era in Germany. Grass, particularly in the epic novel The Tin Drum (1959), demonstrated as Boll attempted in the majority of his fiction to define the present by its inextricable relationship to the past, while simultaneously enlisting literature in the cause of social change.

Highly appreciative of Western authors, Boll professed his indebtedness to both William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe, and stylistically, his terse, eminently readable language is often attributed to the influence of Hemingway. In addition, Boll has been compared to Saul Bellow, primarily in relation to characterization and theme. Seeking a means to communicate in a non-communicative world, Bellow's protagonists, particularly the character of Herzog in the novel (1964) by the same name, often demonstrate striking similarities to many of Boll's protagonists, most significantly the character of Hans in The Clown.

Determined to create a "habitable" language and to renew the legacy of German literature, Boll emerged from the war philosophically aligned with existentialism which in part conflicted with his inherent belief in religious faith. Consequently, although most predominant in his early fiction, an existential outlook reminiscent of Camus is certainly recognizable in The Clown intertwined with the prevailing dominance of religion, similar in context to the novels of Graham Greene, which is characteristic of Boll's entire body of work. In addition, and clearly of major importance, Boll was profoundly influenced by both Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, extremely significant in The Clown where the character of Hans is undoubtedly Boll's "underground man," disassociated and withdrawn from society.

Adaptations

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Capitalizing on the cinematic techniques employed by Boll in his fiction, the Czechoslovakian film director Vojtech Jasney collaborated with British cameraman Walter Lassally to adapt The Clown to the screen. Released in West Germany in 1975, Ansichten eines Clowns attempted to capture the satirical elements of the novel in a highly stylized artistic statement. Far more successful as a commercial commodity, however, was the film version of The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1976), released first in West Germany and later in the United States. Written and directed by frequent collaborators Volker Schlondorff and his wife Margarethe von Trotta, the film is largely a faithful adaptation of Boll's novel as well as an impressive visual experience. Effectively compensating for the loss of the novel's narrator by fusing the action of the film with emotional intensity, Schlondorff and von Trotta shifted the creative focus from social and political thematic concerns to the presentation of vivid and sympathetic characterization. As a result, the performance of Angela Winkler as Katharina Blum was generally acknowledged as the high point of the film.

Bibliography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177

Beck, Evelyn T. “A Feminist Critique of Böll’s Ansichten eines Clowns.” University of Dayton Review 12 (Spring, 1976): 19-24. Beck analyzes Hans Schnier as a negative person who exploited Marie. Beck asserts that with Marie, Böll depicted a victim of male domination.

Böll, Heinrich. What’s to Become of the Boy? Or, Something to Do with Books. Translated by Leila Vennewitz. New York: Knopf, 1984. Written just before his death, this is Böll’s longest autobiographical work. In it, he reveals connections between his life and his novels.

Conard, Robert C. Heinrich Böll. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981. A good introduction to Böll’s life and works.

Conard, Robert C. Understanding Heinrich Böll. Columbia: University of South Carolina Presses, 1992. Includes a brief biography, a chronology, and a bibliography. In one chapter, Conard analyzes Böll’s major novels, among them The Clown.

Reid, James Henderson. Heinrich Böll: A German for His Time. Oxford, England: Oswald Wolff, 1988. Reid’s book explores the connections among Böll’s fiction, his life, and his times.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Clown Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Critical Essays