Arthur Schnitzler is perhaps best known for his novel Dream Story because that novel was adapted into the final film made by Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut. The dreamlike, ambiguous stream-of-consciousness feel to that film in which certain elements seem less easily understood than others is characteristic of the author’s work as whole. To the literary world and those in his native country of Austria, Schnitzler is more famous as perhaps the first German-language writer to successfully employ the Modernist technique of stream-of-consciousness which attempt to tap into the subconscious minds of characters as events are taking place in real-time. In fact, it was Schnitzler who influenced what is probably the most famous practitioner of the technique—James Joyce—rather than the other way around.
Fraulein Else, published in 1924, has ever since been one of the most popular and widely-read works of Schnitzler. On the surface, the story is simplicity itself: in the face of crushing financial burdens, the title character’s father beseeches his daughter to help save the family from disaster by agreeing to disrobe in front of a stranger willing to pay handsomely for the privilege.
The short story is conveyed through the interior monologue of the young woman as it explores the event from the perspective of explaining what drove the girl to commit a “psychotic act” which will eventually result such overwhelming shame and humiliation that she is driven to commit suicide.
The story has been adapted for the screen at least three times since the silent era, the most recent being a 2013 German theatrical film directed by Anna Martinetz.