In Arthur Schnitzler’s Fräulein Else, the story is told through Else’s point of view. Not only does Schnitzler allow the readers to see how the characters interact with one another through dialogue, he also incorporates Else’s thoughts and reactions to everything she experiences. Through the use of the stream of consciousness and describing her escapes to fantasy, Schnitzler is able to vividly convey to the reader the internal turmoil and conflicting emotions that throw Else into a void of hysteria.
Else first receives a telegram from her mother informing her that her father needs money in order to escape jail and embarrassment after being found out of embezzlement. Because there were no family members to turn to, Else is asked to approach Herr von Dorsday, a wealthy family acquaintance, to ask him to lend money. However, with the telegram comes with the suggestion of selling her innocence. “Oh Heavens, won’t he give me the money? I mustn’t look so frightened. Everything is at stake. I must say something intelligent and convincing” (43). This quote illustrates Else’s compliance to her mother’s message in addition to her reluctance to go through with her actions. In addition, Else contemplates, “How would you like it, Father if I sold myself by auction this evening?” (23-24). Here her inner conflict of personal needs versus family needs is emphasized in the sense that Else does not want to sacrifice herself for her father. Had Schnitzler not allowed us to read into Else’s stream of conscious, we wouldn’t have identified the source of her hysteric thoughts. Because she has something holding her back from behaving the way she wishes to, Else is forced into a situation where she gains no benefit as an individual.
As Else comes into interact with other characters, her thoughts give way to the formation of different internal conflicts. “I will never sell myself. I’ll give myself… but I won’t sell myself. I’ll be a hussy but not a prostitute” (53). A Madonna-wore complex is demonstrated here in the sense that Else can only be viewed as a saintly figure or a degraded prostitute. Else here is shown to be reflecting on her decisions and character. She goes through a phase of reassurance to comfort herself in her actions, justifying how the world should see her as if they knew her predicament.
Posed with the task her mother bestowed upon her, Else is exposed to harsh reality; by taking on her father’s debts, she is forced to grow up. “Bertha has three lovers already… I’ll have a hundred lovers, a thousand; why not?” (24) This thought of hers...