Lulu, a twenty-year-old murderess and prostitute, married four times. She has had countless lovers. Lulu is the embodiment of unbridled female eros. Her fortunes rise and fall along with those of the men and women around her. Lulu’s ability to live a life of pure sensuality is put to the test. After her escape from prison after a year and a half of incarceration and illness, she is forced into a life of deceit, debauchery, and ruin. Her unscrupulous exploitation of Countess Martha von Geschwitz’s homoerotic feelings for her have led not only to her successful escape from prison but also to the countess’ financial ruin and ultimate death. After she marries Alva, she and a number of her entourage move to Paris. All of them profit from Martha’s and Alva’s weakness for Lulu by blackmailing Lulu, who in turn extorts the money they demand from Martha and Alva. The final ruin of all occurs when the “Jungfrau” stock, in which Lulu, Alva, and a number of others in their company have invested heavily, crashes, bankrupting everyone. Before sinking to her lowest point, Lulu induces Schigolch, a vagrant, to murder Rodrigo to get rid of him for her. Lulu’s purely sensuous and childlike nature, which is preserved in the painting of her, is confirmed when she is reduced to streetwalking in London, and her inability to be businesslike becomes apparent because she enjoys her customers when she should not. In this, she is supported by Alva’s failure to play the role of pimp effectively.
Dr. Alva, or Alwa, Schön (shehn), a playwright, the son of Dr. Schön, a newspaper publisher and editor in chief. He is Lulu’s fourth husband. Alva’s fortune from the sale of his father’s newspaper is spent on his passion for Lulu, and he loses what is left when the stock in which he had invested becomes worthless. Alva admires Martha’s selfless concern for Lulu and her sacrifices to free her from prison by purposely infecting herself and Lulu with cholera. He is too civilized to have the courage to lead the wild and...
(The entire section is 850 words.)