Page 153 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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Schnitzler, who was trained as a physician and who specialized
in psycho-therapy, avoided generalizations about human behav­
ior or misbehavior. He ra th e r exam ined and dissected carefully
each sickness in the relations between hum an beings before o ffer­
ing a specific diagnosis and a specific remedy. He did not intend
his remedies to be universally applicable. The medicine tha t
cured in one case m ight act as a poison tha t killed in another. For
example, an overdosage o f tolerance in the relations between
husband and wife could destabilize a marriage, as in his play
1904, or in his narratives
Die Frau des Weisen,
Die Hirtenflote
, 1911. On the o ther hand , too rigid an insis­
tence upon absolute fidelity merely made the heart long to burst
the fetters of marriage and to yield more easily to the overtures of
a Don Juan , Casanova, or Anatol. T he soul is a vast domain,
feelings ebb and flow, and there is no insurance against emotional
instability in hum an relations.
In play after play, Schnitzler’s heroes and heroines grope for a
satisfactory substitute for the conventional type o f marriage. This
groping leads them to many innovative experiments, but their
creator, after a m inute analysis o f the possible consequences,
remains skeptical tha t the new morality, or amorality, offers suffi­
cient advantages to outweigh the side-effects of new ills. The
doctrine o f laissez-faire in family life may lead to even more tragic
results than the d iscarded , o ld-fash ioned marriage with its
mutual duties and responsibilities.
To Schnitzler, guilt and innocence, sin and virtue, evil and
good were bu t words tha t had no perm anen t significance. The
only certainty was tha t some people were alive, while others were
reposing unde r the ground . Let those who live on, therefore,
cease to moan and to darken with cares the ir all too few days on
Living in Vienna, Schnitzler could not escape the plague of
anti-Semitism. No less than o ther physicians and writers o f Jewish
origin was he a targe t for anti-Semitic attacks. In his most ambi­
tious novel,
Der Weg ins Freie,
upon which he worked from 1902
until 1907, and in his play of the physician’s calling,
published in 1912, he gave expression to his views on
the place o f the Jew in modern life. He did not accept the Zionist