Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Correction, as is the case with Bernhard’s other writings, is a chronicle of existential despair. Its form, a sustained monologue, suggests the theme of isolation and estrangement; there is no dialogue with others, only the single voice speaking out into the silence of a universe that is essentially indifferent to mankind and its need to give suffering a meaning. As with the death of the sister after the building has been completed, life is a series of tragic ironies.

Intellectuals such as Roithammer and the narrator illustrate a fundamental theme in Bernhard’s writing: the basic alienation of human consciousness from being. His characters evidence a profound pessimism concerning the meaning of existence. They are all plagued by an exaggerated sense of self-consciousness, an awareness of their otherness in the midst of life. As in the philosophy of the pessimistic thinker Arthur Schopenhauer, whose name appears in Correction, existence is regarded as a random and pointless exercise from which only pain and horror can result. These individuals suffer from this estrangement and their inability to “correct” life, to make it consonant with consciousness. The narrative is a meandering chronicle of their despair. The ultimate “correction” of life for Roithammer is suicide.

Roithammer’s plans to construct a round building in the middle of the desolate woods serves as a symbol of his otherness and alienation. It is a...

(The entire section is 508 words.)