In Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, the protagonist is caught in his class position, which brings hopelessness and despair. We see a similar class struggle in Waiting for Lefty. How do both playwrights portray the lower class and their struggle with their daily life?
Both plays were written in fragments, and it is not necessary for the fragments to go in a certain predetermined order to understand the plays. Büchner did not finish Woyzeck, since he passed away before he could finish it at the young age of twenty-three. In Waiting for Lefty, the scenes in the middle can go in a random order, as well, without changing the play. It is interesting to note that the edition from the “Dramatists Play Service Inc.” left out a scene altogether in its current edition. Both plays are based on real events, Waiting for Lefty is “based on the New York City taxi drivers’ strike of 1934” (Miller, 429), while Woyzeck was “based on the real-life case of a barber who stabbed his mistress in a fit of jealousy and was sentenced to death in 1821” (Billington). Both authors use real-life events to ask for more social justice and even for a revolution, a subtler hint from Büchner, and an outright demand for change in Waiting for Lefty.
Woyzeck has an occupation; he is a soldier in the Hessian military and is the barber of his officer. He has an illegitimate child with his common-law wife Marie, yet lives in the barracks with his colleague Andres. When Woyzeck shaves his officer, the captain mocks his morals due to his poverty: “Woyzeck, you’ve no sense of virtue. You’re not a virtuous man” (Büchner 25). The captain questions his morality, since Woyzeck has a child with Marie without the blessing of the church. However, the same captain is not commenting on the morals of his Drum Major whose cause for existence is to show off the uniform in order to get more recruits. The Drum Major does not need to work normal duties and gets his pay only for being in the privileged position, which leaves plenty of time for going after Marie. Yet, his superior considers Woyzeck the person lacking morals, even though he conveys that the poor are not able to afford morality: “Money, money! If you’ve no money-, Just you try getting one of our sort into the world in a moral way” (Büchner 25). Woyzeck is trying to tell his captain that he cannot afford to marry Marie and get the blessing of the church, since the church demands money for those services, as well.
In Waiting for Lefty, we see that despite all the progress people have made in one hundred years that the lower class is still desperately struggling. Florence and Sid would like to get married, but are not able to due to their economic circumstances: “Florence: We wanted to have kids… “(Odets 20). Yet compared to Woyzeck, the protagonists are aware of the class struggle that keeps them in their poverty-ridden circumstances. Sid says; “Sure, the big shot money men want us like that. Keeping us in the dark about what is wrong with us in the...