Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening Summary and Analysis of III, vii

Melchior climbs into the town graveyard late one night in November. He has escaped from the Reformatory, and says out loud that "they" won't follow him here. The people from the Reformatory are looking for him in the places one looks for degenerates, such as brothels. He recognizes that he's in some trouble, for his clothes are a mess and he has no money. This is the hardest part of the journey, and suddenly Melchior wishes that he'd never run away. His words become confused: he asks why "it" had to happen to "her," and then begins to abuse himself verbally. He acknowledges that he is envious of those dead people in the graves, but that he is not brave enough to join them.

He begins searching for one grave in particular, and the atmosphere begins to affect him. He sees Wendla's tombstone, which claims she "died of Anemia," and proclaims "Blessed are the pure in heart." Melchior calls himself her murderer, but knows he must get away. Suddenly, Moritz Stiefel appears carrying his head under his arm. He tells Melchior to wait, for he won't get another chance quite like this one. Melchior is surprised, but oddly at ease with the scene. Moritz tells him that he, Melchior, knocked over his cross when he climbed the wall. Now Melchior reacts, insisting that this thing isn't Moritz. Moritz tells Melchior to take his hand, saying that the dead sit and watch the living, and are constantly entertained by what they see. He lectures Melchior on the superiority of being dead, and promises Melchior that if he just takes his hand, he will experience it too.

Moritz begins talking to Melchior about watching his own funeral and how entertaining it all was. Melchior is slightly horrified, and Moritz's words grow bitter. He tells Melchior that people deserve to be laughed at, that they cannot be forgiven for their ignorance. Melchior asks him if the dead can "forget," and Moritz says that they "can do anything." Moritz begins to list all of the things they see and understand, from beggars' contentment in their poverty to the parents who have children in order to demean them. Once more Moritz presses Melchior to take his hand, reminding him that this is a miraculous opportunity. Melchior says that if he takes Moritz's hand, it will be because he has no courage left, and he hates himself.

Suddenly a man in a mask enters the stage. He tells Melchior that he is too weak to make such a decision and tells Moritz to "go away." As he shoos Moritz away, the man asks him why he's carrying his head. Moritz says that it's because he shot himself. The man dismisses him, treating him as if there was nothing strange about his wanderings outside the grave, just something vaguely pathetic. Moritz begs to be allowed to stay, just for a little while, and the man forces him to admit that everything he said was a lie. The man turns to Melchior and tells him to trust him and he will make sure he survives. Melchior asks the man whether he is his father. The man suggests that he would surely know his father by his voice, but Melchior disagrees. The man tells him that his father is currently busy with his mother, and that he will help Melchior understand; he tells him that hunger is the cause of his hopelessness. Melchior seems confused about whom to believe, but he vehemently disagrees that a good meal will fix his problems. The man assures Melchior that Wendla did not die in childbirth, but rather from abortion pills given to her by Mother Schmidt. Melchior wants to know who the man is, but the man says that unless Melchior trusts him he will never know him. Melchior threatens to give his hand to Moritz unless the man tells him who he is, but now Moritz tells him that the man is right and that Melchior should go with him.

Melchior tries to question the man to see if he is trustworthy, but he learns nothing concrete, and the man grows weary of his questions. Finally, Moritz threatens to leave if they don't stop fighting. The man and Moritz begin discussing Moritz's suicide, which he now very much regrets. The man tells him that his beliefs about his parents were wrong, and it becomes clear that the man was present at Moritz's death and almost succeeded in talking him out of it.

Moritz decides that he must now retire, and Melchior says goodbye, having apparently decided to put himself in the masked man's hands. Moritz asks Melchior's forgiveness, and the man in the mask tells him to find peace in the fact that he has "nothing" while Melchior must hold onto his "enervating doubt about everything." Melchior tells Moritz he will never forget him, and he and the masked man depart. Moritz, alone, decides he will go put his grave to rights, lie down in it, and "smile."


In this last scene, Melchior's actions reaffirm his position as the moral center of the play. It is possible to forgive Melchior for all of his bad actions because, unlike the other characters, Melchior understands both his crime and his punishment. Melchior yearns to make reparations for his misdeeds. He searches for Wendla's grave so that he can wallow in his guilt - and perhaps even build up the courage to kill himself. Wendla's grave reads "Blessed are the pure in heart," indicating that, unlike Moritz, Wendla was allowed to take her secrets to the grave. For Melchior, these words must be a painful reminder of the exact nature of his crime against Wendla.

Melchior's encounter with Moritz forces him to confront his longing for death head-on. Moritz gives him every opportunity to give in to his longings, and indeed, Moritz's argument for death is persuasive at first. Death seems to give Moritz what he never had in life - the distance required to distinguish between actual worth and the appearance of worth. When Moritz says, "I was among the mourners at my funeral. A most entertaining experience!" one can almost imagine him laughing at the petty, cruel human beings more interested in the tenets of their religion than in the death of a child. Of course, once Moritz says, "I bawled with the best of them, and then slipped over the cemetery wall to hold my sides laughing," he unwittingly reveals that he did not attend his own funeral, for no one shed a tear at the event.

Melchior is truly tempted by Moritz's offer only when Moritz holds out the possibility of oblivion. If Melchior could be certain that death would allow him to forget everything he's done and everything he's lost, he might have the courage to go through with it. This possibility does not exist for the audience: Moritz's lies, his inability to rest, negate any chance that suicide could allow one to forget. When the man in the mask appears onstage, Melchior and Moritz's discussion becomes purely academic. It is clear that Melchior is not going to kill himself, and that the man in the mask is going to intervene.

The question on everyone's lips - Melchior's, Moritz's, the audience's - is, of course, who is the man in the mask? There is no satisfactory answer to this question. Wedekind's language is loose, open to interpretation. However, some theories are better supported by the text then others. For example, some suggest the man in the mask is the author himself, a theory supported primarily by the fact that Wedekind played this role several times. Others suggest that he is God or the Devil, a possibility that should be examined further. Several elements of the scene lend credence to the idea that the man in the mask is God. First, Melchior asks the man whether he is his father. The man says that he is not, but suggests Melchior knows that, because he would have recognized his father by his voice. Melchior denies this fact: his father is both present and forgotten, infinitely close and infinitely distant - the paternal image of God. Similarly, later in the scene, when Melchior insists he needs to know who he is, the man in the mask replies, "You can't get to know me unless you entrust yourself to me." This proposition seems close to the religious notion that each Christian has an individual relationship with God, that the Christian soul knows God by entrusting itself to God. The final piece of evidence in favor of this theory is Moritz's ardent desire to stay with the man in the mask. He begs: "Please don't send me away...Don't send me away. Please! Let me join you for a while. I won't cross you in any way." As a lost soul, Moritz would yearn for the presence of God the way he seems to yearn for the man in a mask.

While this evidence may seem quite compelling, Wedekind makes it clear that there can be no decisive resolution of the matter. First of all, Melchior seems to realize that the figure is neither God nor the Devil, for he says to Moritz, "Where this man is taking me I don't know. But he is a man..." Second, and most importantly, although Melchior is ultimately "saved" by his meeting with the masked figure, this "saving" seems completely removed from any religious component. Nothing about the final scene of the work redeems the fact that religion is ridiculed throughout Spring Awakening.

If Spring Awakening ends with any kind of positive action, with any kind of moral center, it can be found in the man in the mask's final words to Moritz and Melchior: "To you the soothing consciousness that you have nothing, to you the enervating doubts about everything." Life may be difficult and messy and full of guilt, it may consist solely of "enervating doubts about everything," but it is nevertheless superior to death. This statement resonates with the play as a whole, for while Spring Awakening seems to criticize everything and to undermine all authority, all beliefs, and all kinds of families, it does not ultimately suggest that they are worthless.