MOMFinal - Georg Buchners Woyzeck was based on the...

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Georg Buchner’s “Woyzeck” was based on the real-life execution of a mentally ill criminal, whom doctors acknowledged was mentally disturbed but still recommended for execution. The execution itself was a public spectacle that ridiculed and dehumanized Woyzeck, promoting the notion that the mentally ill are not deserving of the same respect as others and are not considered valid members of society with equal rights. Buchner was outraged both that Woyzeck was executed despite his obvious mental disturbance (instead of understanding that Woyzeck’s behavior was a result of an extraneous condition that could be allieviated or cured, the members of society that held positions of authority preferred to treat Woyzeck’s behavior as inherent immorality deserving no assistance), and that the execution was an overdramatized spectacle intended to satisfy the morbid curiosity of the public. Woyzeck’s execution prompted Buchner to employ fiction-- with its fluid ability to shake off the yoke of reality and invent unexplored scenarios-- to investigate the experience of a mentally ill individual in contemporary society. Buchner’s willingness to explore the often obscure position of a societal pariah is one of the reasons why “Woyzeck” is considered a preeminent literary work. Prior to Woyzeck, literary explorations often highlighted the highly-respected and the upper class, whose indulgent activities and intellectual whims proved rich sources of analysis. The indigent and the mentally disturbed were either too consumed by the rigors of daily life or too intellectually stunted to harbor any profound source of enlightenment available for writers to plumb. In “Woyzeck”, Buchner questions the perspectives of societal authorities-- as he questioned the authority of the doctors that executed the real-life Woyzeck-- towards the mentally ill, as well as the degree of responsibility that a mentally disturbed individual could assume in their behavior. Not only does Buchner spotlight the “dregs” of society in “Woyzeck”, but he debases the authoritative individuals and highlights their corruptions and logical shortcomings. In “Woyzeck”, public ridicule replaces the real-life execution; instead of questioning the relationship between neurological state and behavior, or empathizing with Woyzeck’s perspective, the public views Marie’s murder as a source of gossip and humiliation. Woyzeck spotlights the public’s reaction to emphasize how the public views mental illness as a source of entertainment rather than a serious condition deserving of attention and concern. In “Woyzeck”, Woyzeck is mistreated and abused physically and mentally by the positions of authority, including the captain, who defines him by his low status and makes generalized assumptions about his moral character. The captain believes that the poor and the mentally ill are morally corrupt, incompetent members of society deserving subhuman treatment. Woyzeck
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