In Buchner’s ‘Lenz’, the protagonist is portrayed as a fallen man, disjointed from society and mentally unstable. Buchner’s portrays Lenz’s fall into madness can be seen strongly in his narrative style but also the use of realisation and nature. From this one can evaluate whether the narrative is the most effective technique in illustrating Lenz’s descent into madness
By examining Buchner’s narrative style, one can see that it is dissimilar to other German Romantics. Where Von Kleist seems journalistic in ‘The Marchioness of O..’ the narrative in ‘Lenz’ appears as if it has been disrupted by the protagonist. For example when the narrator states ‘but at this time he found it annoying that he could not walk on his head’ , one can allude that this is Lenz distorting the narrative with his madness. Helmut argues that ‘Madness cannot be contained within the straitjacket of traditional narration’ and believes that ‘to represent in its full fury means to displace the fundamental criteria of realistic representation.’ This suggests that Buchner disregarded the classical narrative style to make the madness of Lenz more believable. Helmut sees this as the ‘effacement of all differences between the narrators and protagonists perspective’ Therefore, one can infer that the protagonist and narrator have blurred which makes the narration more ambiguous. This makes the reader consider the reliability of the narrator but also makes Lenz seem realistically troubled. Helmut continues stating that Buchner has a ‘disregard for the linearity of time and for the three dimensionality of space.’ One can see this in the fragmented style of narration, which highlights Lenz’s experiences as spots of time. Moreover one can also see Lenz’s inability to understand space in the opening ‘he could not understand why it took him so long to climb […] he felt he must be able to pace everything out with a few steps’ this suggests that Lenz is spatially and temporally out of sync with the narrative and thus not a conventional character. Finally, one can argue that ‘with these[…] displacements Buchner would have created the thoroughly mad text’ that was highly effective because it subverted the traditional literary values for narration and allows one a deeper portrayal of Lenz’s madness.
However, the narrative style is not Buchner’s only method for deconstructing the stability of Lenz. Through a series of religious realisations, Lenz comes to question the power of God. When delivering the sermon Lenz initially feels improved however ‘it seemed to him that the universe was full of wounds; this caused him deep unspeakable pain.’ One can infer that Lenz has realised the suffering of those around him that questions his own reliance on religion as crutch. Moreover, it could imply a lack of faith in God. It is after these religious realisations that Lenz has episodes of madness.
He was alone, alone! The brook murmured, streams poured from his eyes, he hunched himself...