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Sexual Liberation


Found on that interesting site :


an article dealing with sexuality in the Hans Fallada's novel Little Man, What Now?
There are, in the works of Fallada very few evocation of sexuality...   



Many of our previous readings have characterized interwar Europe and particularly the Weimar Republic as a period of increasing freedom and openness of sexuality.  In Hans Fallada’s Little Man, What Now?, however, we see that in this sexual liberation had its limits.  Fallada’s characters’ views on their sexual lives and those around them are certainly diverse and tension between modern and traditional attitudes toward sexuality form many of the tensions of the novel.

The primary characters, Sonny and Lammchen, are in many ways a sexually liberated couple.  They engage in premarital sex and look into options for contraception for Lammchen.  Perhaps most importantly, they view sex as more than a means of reproduction.  For them it is “something that [makes] life happier” (205).  Both spouses repeatedly think fondly of their shared sexual experiences.  Although Sonny’s and Lammchen’s views toward sexuality in their marriage do not seem radical to today’s audiences, the similarity of the views of husband and wife speak to the modern nature of this relationship.

Although some, indeed most, characters believe in sexual liberation for men and women, many otherwise liberally-minded characters also discourage public displays of sexuality by women.  For instance, the aging Mrs. Witt why women would want to join Heilbutt’s nudist club but understands that it must be “a good way for men to pick up a lady friend” (203).   On the other hand, she also is comfortable with Heilbutt living in her building and even accompanies him to the naturist club before reaching this conclusion.  Similarly, Pinneberg believes that “girls are girls, and men are men, and however different they are, they all like to do it” (204) and endorses an identical degree of sexual freedom for himself and Lammchen in their marriage, believeing that “he belong[s] to her, as she belong[s] to him” (205).  Yet he is also ashamed of his mother’s career as a madame and her former career as a prostitute.  Pinneberg does not feel this profound sense of shame for Heilbutt, even if he is made uncomfortable by his nudist tendencies.  This discrepancy seems to be tied to gender, especially in light of Pinneberg’s distant relationship with his mother.

Fallada also depicts Pinneberg as wary of sexuality more generally, however sexually enlightened his relationship with Lammchen is.  The first evidence of this in the novel is his extreme discomfort at Heilbutt’s naturist club.  Although this club is not necessarily sexual in nature, he views it this way and finds it “purely and simply embarrassing” (207).  Upon the birth of his son, Pinneberg recalls his “masturbation, the little girls, that dose of clap” with embarrassment, unable to reconcile his sexual life and his newfound role as a father.  The conflicting attitudes displayed by the characters in Little Man, What Now are bound together in the character of Pinneberg.

The scarcity of jobs that Fallada emphasizes throughout the novel also places limitations on the sexual lives of his characters.  When a nude photo of Heilbutt is published, he is dismissed from his position at Mandel’s.  Later, when two other employees are found to be having an affair, they are also fired.  Interestingly, Fallada only allows us to see the woman getting fired.  Despite the supervisor’s insistance that the mann “is summarily dismissed as well” (275), Fallada by no means assures us that this is the case.  In both of these situations, the dismissed employees are told that their personal lives are the business of their employer, as it is the employer who funds these lives.  It seems that because jobs are so difficult to find, employers feel that they can control more of their employees’ lives, as they will most likely not leave their job.  Unfortunately, this mixing of personal and professional aspects of workers’ lives restricts the degree to which they can make their sexual lives publicly known.