The focal point of this paper is to discuss and evaluate Arthur Schnitzler’s ‘Dream Story’ in the light of the inevitability of the conflict between desire and social responsibility. The source text is the translation of the original German work ‘Traumnovelle’ by author Arthur Schnitzler. The translation is done by J. M. Q. Davies. Arthur Schnitzler was an Austrian doctor by profession and was a noted author of his time (1862- 1931).
His noted works includes Dying, Lieutenant Gustl, Berta Garlan, Blind Geronimo and his Brother, The Prophecy, Casanova’s Homecoming, The Road into the Open, The Green Cockatoo, The Lonely Way, Countess Mizzi and Living Hours. Dream Story was written in 1926 and is regarded as a novella by the critics. It could be enumerated as a plot that ventures into the inner self of Doctor Fridolin and narrates the incidents from his psychological perspectives and the eventual transformation of his self.
The entire episode is formulated over a relatively brief period of time spanning over a period of 48 hours. Within this short time span Arthur Schnitzler incorporates several characters that Doctor Fridolin meets and which the author imports to create a world of affairs that provides us a clue of the circumstances that are inevitable in the immediate future. This immediate future culminates into the development of a masquerade ball where the author culminates several events that are wondrous in nature with the presence of individuals in masks.
There is a flurry of sex involved with the indication of danger where Doctor Fridolin finds himself to be placed as a total outsider. Everything in this episode is projected as a point of view that is seen from the perspective of Doctor Fridolin. This part appears to be presented predominantly as a metaphor of Doctor Fridolin’s inner self of desire and lust. This episode of masquerade ball adds to the mystery of self discovery of Doctor Fridolin. Here the self discovery of Doctor Fridolin could be enumerated as a decent into the abyss of his self image.
This is also a transition of relations among people in a certain sense too where the outer world is found to be involved in the changes along with individual shift of priority of life and discovery of greater truth of nature within the parameters of social norms. This novella could also be depicted as a plethora of symbolism and imagery where a person revels himself to the audience and the inner self at the same time that is predominantly psychological in nature.
Arthur Schnitzler was a friend and contemporary of the noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud of Vienna. However, these two men had opposite theories, if not different, on human sexuality. Arthur Schnitzler firmly believed that the course of action of human sexuality is dependent upon instinct than anything else. But despite all the differences it is evident that a heavy influence of Freud can be felt while going through the text. This is exactly what is reflected in his novella ‘Dream Story’.
For an age of 1920’s it is obvious that his views along with this work was extremely shocking as a subject and its narration as the basic conceptualization of the novella is based on the sexual fantasy of a couple and the eventual defoliation of relation due to these fantasies. On the other hand this novella could also be taken up as an account of truth, permissible or not, that is juxtaposed within the system of marriage and self individuality.
The storyline zooms in the intimate conversation of the primal characters Fridolin and his wife Albertine. They are basically quite affluent and respectable in Vienna. The wife is found to be an able home maker where the central position is occupied by their daughter who is six. The conversation takes off when the little girl is put to the bed. The subject of the conversation is about the masquerade ball that they attended. Initially the dialogues were kept into the parameters of the adventures of Fridolin and his wife Albertine in the mask ball.
Soon, the conversation developed into the stage where they revealed to each other that if there was enough chances and coincidences along with favorable situations both of them would have been unfaithful to each other. For the man it was a fifteen year old girl and for the wife it was man with a yellow suitcase. Both of them wanted to take revenge on the other and before the dialogue was able to unfold into greater adversaries they were interrupted by an emergency call from a patient. The doctor had to leave. From this point the novella turns into an intermingled atmosphere of mystery, fantasy and fairy tale mode.
Doctor Fridolin is approached by numerous women for sexual pleasure or otherwise and Doctor Fridolin passes from one woman to another and ultimately ending up into the midst of a masquerade ball where the password appeared to be “Denmark” and as his friend told him there would be lots of naked women. But there is problem with this secret society. If one is identified as an outsider there is sure to be trouble. Doctor Fridolin is soon traced out as an outsider but is saved by a mystery woman. Now the paradox of social responsibilities and desire completes a full circle as the author indicates indirectly the identity of this mystery woman.
This is because there is every chance that this woman is Albertine, but with no specific proof for Doctor Fridolin. Thus the social responsibility of a wife towards her man is completed successfully by the mystery woman if the woman is indeed his wife. Now if the mystery woman is really his wife Doctor Fridolin has every reason to be cheated as she appeared in the orgy. But at the same time Doctor Fridolin himself had every intention to join the orgy. Thus the paradox continues. Either it is desire that is to be forecasted and relished by an individual or it is important to engage into the human spirit of social interest?
The answer appears to be cleared by the author himself in a way, though not in a very vivid manner, as he puts the social relation between a man and a woman hanging without ramifying the norms of the society by a large extent. Doctor Fridolin is saved by Albertine and that seems to be the bottom line of the story where the man understands the value of social bondage after an outrageous adventure of inner self. Reference Schnitzler, Arthur; Dream Story; translated by J. M. Q. Davies; Penguin Books; 2005.