The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

1
Die Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr: Romantic Perspectives on "Us" and "Them"

CHRISTOPHER R. CLASON

Most sociologically oriented critics of E. T. A. Hoffmann "Doppelroman", Die Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr ["The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr"], 1 have concentrated on the Kreisler biography and have discussed at length the Sieghartsweiler Court, the fictional principality at which Kreisler serves as music director. 2 Comparatively few have involved themselves seriously with the tomcat's autobiography, while still fewer have discussed the complex social structures of the bestial society in any detail. Those who have tend to concentrate upon the text's satirical features, especially Beardsley, 3 who, in her fine study of Hoffmann's beasts, demonstrates the connections between various animals and different levels of society. There can be little doubt that a great deal of Hoffmann's fiction serves satirical ends. However, there is much more to the animal societies in Kater Murr. While Hoffmann conceals his criticism of political types and personalities beneath the thinnest of veils, he also portrays intricate relationships among the beasts which retain some very realistic and distinctive traits.

One of Hoffmann's most remarkable achievements in the novel is the creation of this complex animal society within the relatively brief autobiographical text. The cats and dogs form social clusters which often exhibit characteristics of minority groups within a larger social context, the human society. Of course, the bestial communities reflect many aspects of human German society as well. Murr, the feline autobiographer, depicts a dynamic relationship among the dogs and cats: individuals sometimes tolerate animals from other species, and some even form friendships, but in the company of members of their larger species-communities the individuals often revert to exclusive and chauvinistic behavior. Furthermore a multifaceted relationship exists between each species and the dominant human society, upon which the animals must rely for their life requirements. Furthermore, the animals act in accordance with certain behavioral patterns which humans

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