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Mahlendorf, U. (1979). Franz Grillparzer's The Poor Fiddler: The Terror of Rejection. Am. Imago, 36(2):118-146.

(1979). American Imago, 36(2):118-146

Franz Grillparzer's The Poor Fiddler: The Terror of Rejection

Ursula Mahlendorf, Ph.D.


Grillparzer's story The Poor Fiddler (written from 1831-1842) portrays two artists, Jacob the fiddler, who is a total failure, and the narrator of the story, a dramatist in search of dramatic material, who lives and works in a manner entirely different from the fiddler. Narrator and fiddler are two different aspects of the author's own being. Both characters, though in different ways, are concerned with the problem of rejection. Through his two artist figures, Grillparzer compares and contrasts two different uses of art and two different media of art: in the case of the fiddler the medium of sound and in the case of the dramatist the medium of persons. The fiddler uses what he thinks of as his art as a defense against a rejecting world, a defense which works in well developed patterns and methods of pathlogical restriction and denial. Through the fiddler's developmental history, the reader finds out why he uses his violin to keep the world at bay. The dramatist, by comparison, is open and receptive to the world and to his material (in this case the old fiddler); he pursues it, he experiences it, and he lets it speak to him. However, the narrator does not accomplish what he sets out to do with his story—namely to show his entire creative process. Contrary to what he led us believe at the outset, the narrator does not shape the fiddler into a dramatic character nor his tale into a drama. He merely completes his report on external events and then falls silent.

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