Revisionary Revelations: Women and Self-Worth in Two West German Short Stories
"Women have not experienced their own experience," feminist theologian Carol P. Christ observes in Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (5). "Instead of recognizing their own experiences, giving names to their feelings, and celebrating their perceptions of the world, women have often repressed and denied them" (5). Such repression and denial characterize the protagonists in two short stories by West German women writers- "Ein Bündel weisser Narzissen" ["A Handful of White Daffodils"] by Luise Rinser, and "Das dicke Kind" ["The Fat Child"] by Marie Luise Kaschnitz.
Rinser's story, first published in 1956, resembles a radio play in form and bears a certain curious resemblance to the film It's a Wonderful Life. As the story opens, an angel appears to a farmer's wife on her deathbed. The woman insists that she is too busy to die, that her family needs her too much, but eventually concedes; she protests, however, that she doesn't deserve to go to heaven and that she fully expects to go to purgatory. The angel, in an apparent effort to convince her otherwise, proceeds to show her a series of visions. In the first she sees herself as a young girl in a white Communion dress placing white flowers on an altar and remembers vowing to become a nun, a vow she was later unable to keep. The dying farmer's wife now believes it would have been better, in God's eyes, to have resisted: "Aber der Hof war verschuldet, mein Bruder tot, die Eltern alt, and da hieß es: Geld muß her auf den Hof, heirate einen der Geld herbringt, and damit basta, und keine Flausen vom Kloster und dergleichen" ( Rinser: 259). ["But the farm was in debt, my brother was dead, my parents were old, and so it meant that money was needed for the farm and I should marry someone with money, and that was the way it was, and no more dreams about a cloister and such things."] ( Bauer: 57).
The angel asks her once again what she sees, and her response indicates that she sees multiples of herself, all engaged in the typical chores of a