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The normrefers to a state in which affairs are standard, typical, usual,expected and unexceptional among others. In his book, theSteppenwolf,Hermann Hesse explores some of the issues relating to deviation fromthe norm like how an individual is affected. Moreover, the play“Mother Courage and her Children” also presents various mattersrelating to thenorm,its significance, and how the environment isaltered in caseof a deviation. Furthermore, Bertolt Brecht vividly examines how anindividual has a difficult time toadapt to the changes in the norm innately.This paper explores the significance of the normsin these two masterpieces, the effects of what is considered normalto the characters, and what they lose or gain when they stray fromthe norm(McQuinn 12).
Hermann Hesse uses HarryHaller as an embodiment of a person who has an intrapersonal conflictdue to dissatisfaction with the normal life. He shows that leadingand conforming to normalcy proves hard for some people. We aretaken throughthe Steppenwolf treatise that records a man’s multifaceted soul,which Haller fails to comprehend(Hesse 15). Heisencircled in astruggle that cannot be solved and he isnot contentedwith being either rightor wrong.Thisfixed, the firm,false and personally developed concept makes him blind to the otherworld that is considered normal. He says “Howfoolish it is to wear oneself out in vain longing for warmth!Solitude is independence.”(Hesse33) tomean, there iscomfort in being alone. Thisaccount of events shows how difficult it is for some people to adaptto the normalway of life. In connection to the real world, not everyone iscomfortable with what others consider contemporary(Hesse 10).
In the description of thebook, Haller has suicidal ideations and concedes that he isnot suited tothe current world that every other person is seemingly comfortable.After meeting his learnedfriend in the past, Haller proceeds to his place. Because of thefriend’s nature of a nationalist, Haller is disgusted and unhappyabout it thus offending the friend’s wife. It is because he hadcriticized a column that Haller had written earlier. Thenationalistic nature is anormal traitduring that period,but Haller dislikes it and ends up getting at loggerheads with thefriend. Also,he has much trouble goinghome because he would ease the suicidal process. As a result, heprefers justto walk aroundat night. When Hermine proposes another meeting, Haller says he hasgotten a reason to live for some time. Moreover, she shows concernfor Steppenwolf. “You’re a baby,and youneed someone to look after you”(Hesse 23) is ameasure of readiness to help. This statement came after she realizedthat Haller was too desperate and had many needs(McQuinn 20).
The Steppenwolf loses hishappiness because of the lack of touch with reality as he says “Iam in truth the Steppenwolf that I often call myself that beastastray that finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in a worldthat is strange and incomprehensible to him.”(Hesse 33).There is an often indulgence in deep thought and suicidal ideationsbecause of the perceived inability to cope with the norm. Again,Haller loses a friendshiplike that of the former academic buddy. It is because of thecriticism that the nationalist friend had on his column. However, thestray from the normalrealm attracted some importantpeople like Hermine. She could easily spot atroubled personin Haller. Ultimately, the author shows some form of progress whenHaller istaken to themagic theaterfor self-understanding. The statement “Iwould traverse not once more, but often the hell of my inner being.One day I would be a better hand at the game. One day I would learnhow to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too.”(Hesse 33) isan indicator of light at the end of the tunnel.Therefore, he gained insight at the end.(Hesse33).
In MotherCourage and her Children,the importance of the norm is depicted by uncannily describing thethirty-year war in the 17thcentury Europe. Lack of peace is a consequence of a changein the norm.Again, there is normalization into the reality of war as seen in thequote “No, there’s nothing we can do. Pray, poor thing, pray!There’s nothing we can do to stop this bloodshed, so even if youcan’t talk, at least pray. He hearsif no one else”(Brecht 44).People get used to gunshots, deaths, injustices like rape amongothers. Moreover, the norm is significant in that humans will adjustto the changes available. Also, accompanying activities likerecruitment of soldiers intensify(Brecht 46).
Mother Courage does not findit normalfor a soldier to kill and be praised, just like her son Eilif did.For this reason, she scolds him as having endangered his life for nogood reason. She laments about the commander “If his plan ofcampaign was any good, why would he need brave soldiers, wouldn`tplain, ordinary soldiers do? Whenever there are great virtues,it`s a sure sign something`swrong.”(Brecht 46).Moreover, her daughter, Kattrin gets raped by a soldier who is drunkduring the normalwar periods. When Eilifshoots and kills a peasant, he isalso executed,converse to the expectation like in the earlier shooting in which hewaspraised. Hesuffers this fate because of his view of killing peasants as being anormal act of asoldier. Moreover, this event happened when there was peace already.Mother Courage tries to save her son Swiss Cheese through bribing butlater relents by denying his body in fear of being killed as hisaccomplice. It is anormal act for amother to defend her children,but she ultimately loses him(Brecht 48).
Mother Courage suffers theeffects of deviating from the norm. First, she loses all herchildren, Eilif, Swiss Cheese, and Kattrin.She chooses to deny Swiss, a decision that leads to his death asindicated in her words “ I’ll never see Swiss Cheese again, andwhere my Eilif is the good Lord knows. Curse the war”(McQuinn). Eilifdeviates from the norms of peace by shooting a peasant and loses hislife through execution. Kattrinbeats a drum to alert the town residents, an action that causes herdeath. Finally, Swiss Cheese hides the pay box from the Catholicsoldiers and ends up beingkilled. It wasnormal for submitting the boxes to the soldiers(McQuinn).
In conclusion, matters arenormalwhen thepeople tolerate them.The Steppenwolfhas Harry Haller as a troubled fellow who does not understand thenormalway of life of many people making his thoughts suicidal. Again, heproves that norm ishard for somepeople to attain. Haller has a perception that he cannot fit in thesociety. As a result, he has trouble even with his formeracademically.He loses happiness in the process but finally gains insight. InMother Courage andher Children, thenormalpeace is affected by the thirty-year war. Mother Courage scolds Eiliffor endangering his life although the normal is soldiers can kill andbe killed. A drunken soldier rapes Kattrin during the normalwar. Moreover, Eilif kills an individual and eventually gets executedfor what he considered normal for a soldier. Ultimately, MotherCourage loses all her children due to the war.
Brecht,Bertolt. MotherCourage and her Children.1963. Document.
Hesse,Hermann. Steppenwolf.Ed. Basil Creighton and Joseph Mileck. Holt, Rinehart and WinstonInc., 1963. Document.
McQuinn,Joseph. "Norms in German plays and books." TheResearch Journal of English Language and Literature(2014): 60-65. 16 October 2016.