In his most famous novel Goodbye to Berlin, British writer Christopher Isherwood is exploring different characters living in Germany (esspecialy Berlin) in the times of Nazi rising. However, his novel is not about politics. It is about ordinary people with ordinary troubles and thoughts. However, the reader can find various remarks on politics and political opinions. The aim of this essay is to find and explore expressions of political atmosphere, manily in portrayals of the characters.
First character we meet in the book is Isherwood’s landlady in Berlin, Frl. Schroeder. She can be tought of as a representative of a “common Berliner”, or even a representative of a “common man“. She is not revolutionary, not seriously interested in politics, she does not have any insight into political problems. She just lives her own life in the time given. Because, as she says: “You can get used to anything“ (Isherwood, 12). Her unconcern about politics can be seen in a scene where Isherwood leaves. She wonders why he leaves, saying “I’m sure I don’t know what makes you want to leave Berlin, all of a sudden, like this... “ (Isherwood, 255). She cannot see the big difference. As was already said, she can adapt to any time – she is reffering to Hitler as Der Fuhrer, and denying that she has voted for communists only few months ago. She has, as many others, certain antipathy towards the Jews. She is probably influenced by her lodger Frl. Mayr, who hates the Jews a lot. Frl. Schroeder „knows“ that there is something wrong with the Jews, they are bad in nature: “Don’t you let one of those filthy Jews touch her. They always try to get a job of that kind, the beasts! “ (Isherwood, 71). It can be assumed that in Berlin there were many people like Frl. Schroeder – they had unreflected prejudice about the Jews, they were not interested in politics seriously, but were able to adapt to almost anything. This atmosphere probably helped Hitler to gain and maintain his power.
Frau Nowak also has some prejudice against the Jews, but in her case is shown that these are very irrational. In her neighbourhood is a Jewish tailor, who kindly offers his services, even though the whole neighbourhood ows him money for it. Despite that fact, Frau Nowak says: “Perhaps Lothar’s right...When Hitler comes, he’ll show these Jews a thing or two. They won’t be so cheeky then“ (Isherwood 148). But for her it is more of a joke, not the real wish, because she almost immediately adds: “Besides, a Jew will always let you have time if you’re in difficulties. You wouldn’t catch a Christian giving credit like he does . . . You ask the people round here, Herr Christoph: they’d never turn out the Jews“ (Isherwood 148). She shares that attitude with her husband, who can make fun of Jews, when he is imitating the way Jews pray, but he also gives speeches about all men being equal (isherwood 139).
Frl. Mayr was mentioned earlier. She deserves a closer look. Frl. Mayr is ardent Nazi and hates the Jewess...