By Ronald Speirs (auth.)
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In later years Brecht, much embarrassed by the reactionary political message of this play, was also very dismissive of its conventional organisation. As with so many of Brecht's retrospective comments on his early work, these strictures are very misleading. In the first place, the play was no simple return to realism. As well as employing the deliberately 'crass' techniques of the satirist Carl Sternheim, the play contained obvious travesties of Expressionist style - sets painted in the Expressionistic diagonal manner, for example, and an all too obviously symbolic red moon that glowed automatically whenever Kragler appeared on stage, so as to convey visually, and funnily, the 'Expressionistic' moods of hysteria that had seized Germany in the wake of the war.
All thinking was to be regarded, and practised, as a form of 46 Theories of Theatre behaviour serving particular aims: 'The truth of any statement depends on its purpose'. 3 Reality was not to be regarded as something fixed, but as defined by the human mind and shaped by human action. Unfortunately, the view of the world taken by too many people was simply a set of received ideas, the 'ruling view', which needed to be recognised in its ideological function as 'the view of the rulers'. The truth of the alternative view of the world proposed by the classic authors of Marxism-Leninism was not to be refuted by appeals to the evidence of past experiences, since these experiences were of a world not yet subject to the processes of social and mental revolution.
Baal's life is that of the lone wolf who acknowledges no moral obligation to any other creature, seeing others either as threats or as objects of his own desire for pleasure. As Baal gradually weakens, his victims return to 'haunt' him, but he can still summon up the strength to overcome their threats to his egotism. Johanna, a young girl who drowned herself after being seduced by him, returns in this way, only to be 'consumed' for a second time in his 'Ballad of a Drowned Girl', in which her corpse is made to yield rich poetic effects.