Sensory Perception and Identity Formation in Hans Fallada’s Kleiner Mann - Was Nun? (1932)


  • Britta Meredith University of Connecticut




Hans Fallada’s 1932 novel Kleiner Mann - was nun? (Little Man - what now?) is highly ranked in the literary canon of German modernism and has received much scholarly attention because it exemplifies the New Objectivity of the 1920s. Despite this attention, scholars have not yet sufficiently examined the key role sensory perceptions play in the narration and their implications for illustrating the Zeitgeist of the Depression and fall of the Weimar Republic, along with the knowledge and insight we can gain from their use in this literary text. My investigation of the text shows how Fallada utilizes sensory perception to emphasize and understand the disorientation of the individual at the time of the Depression. By applying theories based on a phenomenological approach to sensory perception in literature, I pursue the following questions in this paper: What is the significance of the use of sensory perception regarding identity formation processes in the novel? How is sensory perception used and abused to define one’s own identity, or to understand others’ identities? What is the connection between sensory perception, everyday life, and fictional media, such as movies, in the novel?I argue that the integration and primacy of sensory perception in this novel is vital for the identity formation processes of its individual characters. My analysis demonstrates how characters manipulate and purposefully distort sensory perceptions in order to define themselves or to deceive others, and how the main character Pinneberg, even more so than other characters, suffers from the inability to distinguish between appearance and reality.


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