By the end of the novel the reader feels that both Keller and Paul are egotists and equally unattractive characters. While I agree with the first part of this statement I disagree with the second. In this essay I will be discussing the characters egotism, is relation to each other. I will explain the reasoning behind the characters reasoning’s and because of this why I believe that Paul is the more unlikable character of the two. The reader learns very on in the book that each of these characters has unattractive qualities. Goldsworthy creates these characters equally undesirable in their own right. Paul’s superficial view on emotion and his quick judgement especially when it comes to Keller contribute to the portrayal of Paul as a fairly unlikable character.
Paul makes the transition in this book growing up and this in its self is very much a contributing factor as we see him grow into his egotism where as Keller is explained and somewhat redeemed. Despite Keller being describes as a ‘virtuoso’ he is viewed by Paul -and there for the reader -as arrogant and patronising. “ The boy is given to much self satisfaction” he observes of Paul, which is a fair description as Paul is often critical and patronising of Keller’s teaching techniques, which may well stem from his superior view of himself, “ of course he sounded better, he had a better piano.” Paul from very early on is self centred, believing he is the best.
He takes things at face value, especially when it comes to judging Keller and his teaching style. He does not take the time to watch and learn before making assumptions. When he says “He’s a Nazi” he could not have been more wrong. This statement become more apparent towards the end of the novel when we learn about Keller’s association with the NAZIs and the consequences it had not only on his life but also those of this family, his wife and son. Keller’s anti-social behaviour tends to bring a distance between himself and the other people in Darwin but also from himself as a character and the reader. But this is not a negative influence, in fact it makes the reader empathise with him or at least intrigue the reader enough to be on his side. This could be seen as one of Keller redeeming factors.
When Keller chooses to move to Adelaide, Paul realised that his exile was self imposed “ His exile was chosen, not forced upon him”, Keller’s arrogance and naivety during the War are why he chooses to stay in Vienna and ultimately causes the deaths of his wife and son. Keller believes that he had been betrayed, that by being close to Hitler his family would be saved. This assumption was naive, he says himself “I knew these people, these murderers. I had signed their concert programs. His self imposed isolation in Darwin as a result of this evokes empathy and sympathy in the reader and this could again be seen as a redeeming quality. As the reader learns that Keller has reason for his egotism, Paul- because of his youth is viewed negatively because he comes off as an ignorant child. When he moves to Adelaide we realise however that he has somewhat been groomed into this arrogance.
Learning from Keller, Paul learns a lot but he also gets handed all of Keller’s arrogance as well. Learning the techniques from Keller but not how to play the music with passion, Paul starts to believe that technique is the only important thing. Keller as we learn has reason to focus on the technique, simply because he cannot stand the pain of actually feeling the music, evident in his missing finger. Paul’s arrogance grows throughout the book. As he progresses through the lessons with Keller and also as his love life grows with Rosie, he grows more self assured. Paul is very self driven and thinking he is the best he makes decisions that show his arrogance to the fullest.
The choice to move to Adelaide right on the cusp of getting to finally know everything about his teacher shows that not only is he arrogant he is an egotist. He wants the fame and glory of being an amazing piano player. While Paul appears narcissistic, he is often aware of his flaws. Despite being pretentious, Paul is fundamentally shy. His refuge in the music room parallels Keller’s self-imposed solitude at the Swan. Paul is unsure of himself, as his ‘self-perception lagged timidly behind [his] growth spurt’. His arrogance protects him from his loneliness and his inability to attain greatness. Although Paul’s delusions of grandeur mark him as a weak character.
At the end of the novel Paul admits that he “is able to dupe my audience at the odd concert…but never…myself”, referring to his musical ability. Paul comes to the realisation that he will never be the piano player he desires and this admission evokes some empathy from the Maestro readers. Paul’s egotisms is much more prominent than Keller’s, and the tragedy of Keller’s life in a way prevents the reader from having negative feelings towards him. Paul and Keller are represented as egotistical characters but whereas Pauls is viewed as negative with small redeeming factors, Keller’s is understood and earned and explained from his passed.
Courtney from Study Moose
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