German World Of Disappointment

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German World Of Disappointment

“The German World of Disappointment”
From the youngest child to the oldest man, everyone has experienced the unpleasant feeling of disappointment. Everyone has been to a place that was not all that they anticipated it to be. No one can say that someone has never somehow let them down. At one point or another, everyone has been disappointed in something they have purchased. And what child is not heart-broken when he learns there is no Santa Claus? Whether it is in a person, thing, place, or idea, disappointment can be the most devastating and hurtful feeling people face. Disappointment is an experience that the German people, especially, have had to live through. The German writer, Heinrich Boll, uses his story “Pale Anna” to illustrate the universal experience of disappointment, an experience his countrymen are very familiar with, through both literature and history.
When a long-lost German soldier returns to his hometown five years after World War II has ended, he returns to a place that is familiar, but everyone he knows is gone. His new landlady constantly asks him if he knew her dead son. She talks endlessly about her dearly departed son’s life and shows him again and again all the pictures of her son. The final picture that was taken of the landlady’s son was of him at his job as a streetcar conductor. All the other occasions that the soldier had seen it he reminisced about his own time spent at that particular terminus. He remembers the pop stand, the trees, the villa with the golden lions, and especially a girl that he thought of often during the war that always boarded the streetcar at that terminus. The soldier never recognizes any of the people in the picture until he had been there for three weeks and then he sees the girl in the streetcar. The landlady tells him that the girl was her son’s fiancée and that she is living in the room next to his. Pale Anna is what they always call her because of her extremely white face, but her face was unrecognizably destroyed when she was thrown through a window by a bomb blast. The soldier returns to his room and tries unsuccessfully to imagine Anna’s face being anything else but beautiful, even with scars. He thinks about his past romances and remembers them as complete disappointments. As he is standing in the hallway, when he finally gets the courage to open the door to Anna’s room, he “knew Anna was mine,” but when he sees her, he is greatly disappointed with what he sees.
This theme of disappointment comes up frequently in many others of Boll’s stories. In “The Balek Scales”, the entire town is thrown into the realization that placing their trust in the Balek’s was a big mistake. Everyone is disappointed that the Balek’s weren’t trading honestly. It is a further disappointment that no one ever thought to question their authority over the possession and use of weights and measures and their dispersion of “justice”. The greatest disappointment, however, was calculating and figuring out how much money the Balek’s had cheated the entire community and surrounding communities of. The consequences of these collective disappointments befell, not on the source, the Balek’s, but on the narrator’s grandfather’s family, because he was the one who exposed the Baleks’ fraud. Another of Boll’s works that the presence of disappointment appears in is “Black Sheep.” The entire family of the narrator is disappointed in Uncle Otto. They are disappointed in him because they think that he has wasted his life doing nothing. He is such an intelligent and knowledgeable person, but refuses to obtain a job and instead asks everyone he knows for loans. This disappointment soon follows to the narrator because he starts to become exactly like Uncle Otto. After inheriting his uncle’s newly acquired wealth, he drops out of the University to move into his uncle’s old apartment and become a composer, which he later realizes and admits that he has no talent in that area. Following in his uncle’s footsteps also gave him the disappointment of his family. The odd thing is that neither Uncle Otto nor the narrator is upset

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