Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Modern Languages and Literature (German Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures

Committee Chair

Marton Marko

Commitee Members

Hiltrud Arens, Michel Valentin


capitalism, Der Mann mit den Messern, Heinrich Böll, humor in German literature, myth, Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit, post-war German litertature, short story, simulacrum, spectacle, structuralism


University of Montana


German history of the 20th century was marked with unimaginable horrors and hardship. Both the First and Second World Wars left an indelible mark on the German psyche. Most specifically, the consequences of the Second World War were a turning point in German notions of cultural identity. The objective of this thesis is to analyze the various manners by which Heinrich Böll deals with the emerging cultural crisis in the post-war period of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. I have chosen two of his short stories, Der Mann mit den Messern (1948) and Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit (1951), for the purpose of providing a structuralist discussion of Böll’s observations of the rise of Germany’s National Socialism and the Second World War. The structuralist activity emphasizes the use of myth as a social tool for dealing with baneful experiences (i.e. especially in terms of war). Through an examination of these two texts, I call attention to Böll’s use of symbolic meanings, by which he provides the means for understanding how language, individuals, and society can be manipulated in order to correspond to authoritarian aspirations. For Böll, these three elements can create spectacle on the order of mythic connotations. I highlight Böll’s concern with spectacle as an abstract entity that accommodates the development of purposeful ignorance, especially in light of the roles certain individuals played in the rise of German fascism. I posit that Böll uses myth in its most ancient sense – a medium of dissemination through which cultural identity and knowledge can be passed on for posterity’s sake. As a writer, this is the position in which Böll saw himself, for writing functions as myth once had in that it provides a glimpse at the awful realities of war for contemporary and future societies. The lessons, both good and bad, learned in social upheaval can provide future generations with the means to lessen the blow of traumatic experiences, so long as those lessons are passed on.



© Copyright 2012 Marcus James Cardarelli