Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening Summary and Analysis of III, i - III, iv

The next scene begins with the teachers of the school - Calflove, Thickstick, Starveling, Bonebreaker, Stickytongue, and Flykiller - sitting around a table in the Faculty Room. Rektor Sunstroke is at the head of the table, and Catchemquick, the porter, is near the door. Sunstroke is lecturing the other teachers about the expulsion of a student. He feels that expulsion will make up for the harm that this student has already caused, as well as protect against future harm. He also comments that they must protect the school from a "suicide epidemic." When he asks if they have any comments, Thickstick asks him to open a window. For a few minutes the teachers argue about the window, as one of the two has been blocked up, and the other is above the head of Flykiller, who does not wish to have a window opened. Finally, they take a vote and decide not to open a window.

Sunstroke continues to make his case for expulsion, arguing that the Department of Education will blame them if they don't act swiftly and decisively. He comments that schools where a quarter of the student body has committed suicide have been "suspended" by the Minister of Education. He allows that this student might deserve some leniency, but feels that the situation is simply too serious to allow for it. He tells Catchemquick to bring the student up.

Stickytongue returns to the discussion about the window, and he and Flykiller argue until Sunstroke points out that the student has arrived. The student is Melchior. Sunstroke declares that after Rentier Stiefel learned of Moritz's suicide, he searched Moritz's room and discovered a filthy document that he believes may have destabilized Moritz's mind. The twenty page document, entitled "Copulation," was in dialogue form and extremely pornographic. It included detailed pictures and was "teeming with shameless indecencies."

Melchior tries to interrupt, but Sunstroke does not allow it. He goes on to say that Moritz's father gave them the document in question. They promised to look into the matter, and used handwriting comparison to determine that Melchior was the author. They decided that they should interrogate Melchior in order to prove that he was the guilty party. Again Melchior tries to speak, but Sunstroke tells him that he is only allowed to answer their questions with a "yes" or a "no". He begins interrogating Melchior, but after only a few questions a stuttering Stickytongue interrupts to argue that Melchior has only expressed serious thoughts about serious events, and that he "had the m-m-makings of a N-na-natural Scientist!" Stickytongue and Flykiller begin to argue again until Sunstroke interrupts them and continues his interrogation. He asks Melchior directly whether he is responsible for this "indecent document," and Melchior asks him in return to point out "one indecency." Sunstroke reiterates that Melchior can only answer "yes" or "no", and the interrogation quickly dissolves into Sunstroke wholeheartedly condemning Melchior and sending him from the room.

The next scene is set in a graveyard in the rain. The Pastor, Moritz's father, some family and friends, Rektor Sunstroke, Professor Bonebreaker, and the other boys from the school stand around the grave. Nearby, Ilse and Martha watch the proceedings. Pastor Skinnytum gives an angry sermon about how Moritz committed a grave sin, and declares that his actions should be a reminder to them all that there is no forgiveness for suicides. When he is done, Moritz's father begins to shovel earth over the grave, declaring that Moritz was "no son" of his. Rektor Sunstroke tosses down earth, fervently agreeing with the words of the Pastor, and Professor Bonebreaker utters a few final insults as he turns the soil.

These harsh words continue as the funeral breaks up. The event ends with Rektor Sunstroke and Professor Bonebreaker assuring Moritz's father that Moritz wouldn't have gotten his promotion in school. After they have left, Hanschen throws in his own spadeful of dirt and tells his friend to "rest in peace." He seems genuinely sad. The other boys discuss the suicide, wondering whether the pistol has been found, if he actually killed himself, and even how he did it - with a pistol, or with a rope. They begin discussing rumors about the condition of the body - some say that it had no head left at the end. Otto comments that Hanschen owes him five marks because he lost the bet about who would keep their place in school. Hanschen tells him that it's his fault Moritz killed himself, but Otto doesn't take him seriously.

The boys begin talking about their homework and wander away. Martha and Ilse now approach the grave and begin tossing in flowers. They say they will bring lots of fresh ones and plant roses on the grave. Ilse tells Martha she was just across the bridge when she heard the shot. She heard him say "parallelepipedon" just before he shot himself. Then she shows Martha the pistol: she took it out of Moritz's hand when she went by the next morning. Martha asks her for it, but Ilse says she'll keep it "as a souvenir." Martha asks Ilse whether it was true that his head was gone. Ilse tells her that "his brains were hanging from the willow branches."

Mr. and Mrs. Gabor are discussing Melchior. Mrs. Gabor insists that Melchior is being made to pay for Moritz's suicide because they need someone to blame. Mr. Gabor tells her that for fourteen years he's allowed her to make the decisions about how the children are raised, but now he will have his way about Melchior. Mrs. Gabor insists that she will not allow him to put Melchior in the Reformatory. She thinks that a "good boy" will be turned into a criminal if he is surrounded with other criminal natures. She doesn't see what Melchior has done that merits this punishment, and insists that she won't stand for it.

Mr. Gabor begins arguing his case, telling his wife that they have to accept this disappointment just as they accepted their happiness. He talks about how what she sees as "naughtiness" is a much more serious flaw. He spends a long time explaining to Mrs. Gabor why Melchior's actions indicate a serious vice rather than a childish mistake, and finally tells her that she loves Melchior so much because she sees herself in him, but that she must be strong for her son.

Mrs. Gabor refuses to listen, insisting that Melchior is not responsible for what happened to Moritz, and that the very fact that he wrote such things only demonstrates how much of a child he is. She tells him that she will leave him if he puts Melchior in a Reformatory. Mr. Gabor doesn't back down: he tells her that no matter what, he is going through with this, and that he will do his best to comfort her if she will let him. Mrs. Gabor continues to rage that she will not let this happen to her son. She is sure it will destroy him and that he will follow in Moritz's footsteps. Finally, Mr. Gabor tells her why he is so certain that Melchior is utterly corrupt. He explains that earlier that day a woman brought him a letter someone had sent to her daughter. The woman had opened the letter, which was purportedly from Melchior, telling the girl how sorry he is for what happened, and professing that he will pay the consequences. He also tells her that everything will be easier now that he has been expelled. Mrs. Gabor refuses to believe that the letter is from her son, and even Mr. Gabor seems to think that the letter is a forgery, but they both suddenly accept that even if Melchior didn't write the letter, the events it alludes to are both true and known to others.

Mr. Gabor tells his wife that if they send Melchior to another school the same kind of thing may happen, and now Mrs. Gabor accepts that he is right. Mr. Gabor continues to declare that the Reformatory will correct the way that Melchior has been raised and crush the malignant tendencies that have come out in him. Finally, he mentions that he has independently confirmed the truth of the letter, for Melchior has written to his brother asking to borrow two hundred marks in order to pay his way out of the country.

The next scene opens with Melchior in the Reformatory, standing around with several other boys. They are playing a game where they stand in a circle around a coin masturbating, and whoever ejaculates onto the coin first gets the coin. The other boys are enthusiastic, but Melchior refuses to participate, and the other boys make fun of him. Melchior says to himself that he should join them. If he doesn't make any friends, he believes he'll go crazy. He feels certain that he will either die or escape, and either is fine with him. He considers that one of the boys, Ruprecht, has been friendly to him, and decides to tell him some stories in exchange for his advice.

As the boys finish up, they shout "summa cum laude!" Ruprecht claims the coin, but the others dispute his win, and several of the boys eventually chase after him. Melchior is now alone, and he thinks about his escape, Wendla, and Moritz in a confused, mixed-up way. He wonders whether Wendla hates him, but then his thoughts turn to how he'll get a key to his cell. He decides he'll fake an epileptic fit during the service. He considers climbing out the window, but then he sees Dr. Procrustes enter. The doctor is speaking to a locksmith, telling him to put a grating of wrought iron on the window of the fourth floor.


In the next scene, Wedekind villainizes both Rektor Sunstroke and most of the teachers almost to the point of comedy. The most vicious statement is Rektor Sunstroke's comment that they "have a duty to protect this institution from the ravages of a suicide epidemic which has already broken out in various other schools." Sunstroke believes that the teachers' job is to protect the school from any damage that the students can do to it. He doesn't appear concerned with protecting the students, nor with the possibility that something about this institution is what is driving these students to kill themselves.

The scene becomes almost implausibly ridiculous when the teachers interrupt Rektor Sunstroke's speech to engage in an argument about whether or not to open a window. The sheer banality of their argument cannot help but be compared to Melchior and Moritz's conversations, which were filled with philosophical arguments, discussions about books, and musings on everyday phenomena. Rektor Sunstroke and several other teachers insist that Melchior's behavior is depraved, and that he must be expelled to protect the other students from his influence. However, Melchior's expulsion not only indicates the puritanical and repressive nature of his community, but also signifies that the sole purpose of this educational institution has become self-protection, rather than education. By expelling Melchior, Rektor Sunstroke performs multiple functions: he appoints a scapegoat for Moritz's suicide, protects the school from accusations of depravity, and maintains the power structure of the institution. Melchior is dangerous because he is (or was) successful within the hierarchy of the school, but is also willing to exercise his own judgments upon that structure. By removing him, Rektor Sunstroke maintains his authority.

An interesting symbolism is inherent in the fact that Melchior is condemned for authoring a work that others consider profane. He is not allowed to defend himself or interpret his own work, and any possible positive interpretations are ignored. While this was Wedekind's first play, he was certainly aware of the reaction it would get, and the idea of the censored artist must have been in the forefront of his mind.

The theme of religion dominates this scene in Spring Awakening. Organized religion, represented by Pastor Skinnytum, Rektor Sunstroke and Moritz's father, is contrasted with the classical pagan beliefs represented by Ilse and Martha. In this scene, Pastor Skinnytum focuses on the idea of punishment, rather than forgiveness, and positions Moritz as a warning to others rather than as an object of pity. The funeral becomes almost a mockery of itself as the elements of tradition are carried out without the usual feeling behind them.

As the funeral ends, Moritz's suicide appears to degenerate from a tragedy into mere misbehavior. When Rektor Sunstroke tells Rentier Stiefel that Moritz would surely have failed out of school, this is his way of comforting him - Rentier Stiefel should not be sad that his son is dead, because one way or another, Moritz was going to shame him. Moritz's school friends speak about his suicide the way they speak about other school pranks. They discuss it for a few minutes, and then they are distracted by their own fears and worries.

Martha and Ilse are utterly foreign to the regular order. Their status as outcasts - one an abused child, the other the closest thing to a prostitute the village contains - allows them to stand apart from the religious community and ignore traditional ideas about punishment and shame. Unlike the others, they truly mourn Moritz. Ilse and Martha act out a pagan ritual of death, one that is supported by the substance of feeling. By filling Moritz's grave with flowers and promising to return with more, Ilse and Martha make a real attempt to keep Moritz's memory alive.

The next scene revolves around themes of women and men, authority, and punishment. Mr. and Mrs. Gabor have established a certain power structure in terms of their responsibility for Melchior. Mr. Gabor tells his wife,

for fourteen years I have observed in silence your "intelligent" methods of bringing up children. They were at variance with my ideas. My own conviction has always been that a child is not a plaything, that a child is entitled to our most solemn and serious attention, but I told myself that if the charm and intelligence of one parent could replace the serious principles of the other, then, possibly, they might deserve to do so.

Clearly, Mrs. Gabor has had the primary authority in terms of raising Melchior. However, Mr. Gabor maintains traditional views of the differences between men and women, and believes that now that Mrs. Gabor's method has failed, it is up to him to step in and take over.

Mrs. Gabor is completely opposed to the idea of punishing Melchior, for she refuses to see his actions as a crime. She focuses on the fact that Melchior is being made a "scapegoat" for Moritz's death, and does not believe that Melchior's "treatise" could have had anything to do with Moritz's suicide. Mr. Gabor, however, insists that "women are not qualified to judge of such matters. Anyone who could write what Melchior wrote must be rotten to the core." Mr. Gabor's actions demonstrate that in this community Mr. Gabor's control of his family is assumed and complete. However, the fact that Mr. Gabor at least feels that he must persuade his wife suggests that on an individual level the power structure is more flexible.

Mr. Gabor is successful in winning his wife over to his side, because he is able to prove that Melchior has not only written about sexually depraved things, but has actually committed a sexually depraved act. Mrs. Gabor's convictions are undermined by her horror at Melchior's actions. She believes that she is responsible for the event, and bows to Mr. Gabor's judgment even though her arguments against the Reformatory are untouched by Mr. Gabor's counter-arguments.

The Reformatory symbolizes both a true form of moral depravity and the logical consequences of this society's educational and social systems. The boys in the Reformatory are the product of secondary schools, as indicated by their shout of "summa cum laude!" They display the same competitive spirit valued by Melchior's school friends. However, thanks to their punishment, these boys have embraced the coarse sexuality that Melchior supposedly displayed in his writing. If Melchior were to stay at the Reformatory, one must assume that he would soon either kill himself or turn into one of these boys. Dr. Procrustes indirectly comments on the strength of their desire to escape when he tells the locksmith that one boy climbed out of the skylight in an attempt to get away. The boy was killed, leading one to wonder whether the incident was a true attempt at escape, or merely an escape by way of suicide.