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The Spring Awakening Play Essays

Themes

Suppression of the Curious Mind
  • Children were considered “weak creatures who had to shielded from adult sinfulness, whose moral weakness had to be overcome through schooling” (Ekstrom).
  • Where is the line drawn between protecting children from harm/harmful knowledge and restricting a child's mind/world view?
  • Many adults in today's world are doing precisely what the adult characters are doing in the play: they are not allowing children to learn, think, or act.
  • How does the extreme authoritarianism affect the teenagers?  Do they create their own paths in life or merely follow the plans laid out for them?


Fear of Adolescent Sexuality
  • How does the adult fear of adolescent sexuality affect the teen's views on sexuality?
  • How does the lack of sexual knowledge available to the teens affect their discovery of sexuality?
  • What is similar/dissimilar to sex ed today?


Teenage Alienation
  • What affect does keeping the genders separated have on the characters?
  • Who can the teens turn to when their parents will not have open and honest conversations with them?


Adolescence/The Awakening
  • "Spring Awakeninglingers almost painfully on those passages in youth when the discovery of sex temporarily disorders everything: relationships to family, friends, and the piano teacher; the feel of your body; even the fabric of the world itself, which seems to shimmer before you like a mirage, alive with danger and promise” (Isherwood, “Sex and Rock?”).
  • Jared's thoughts:  Spring Awakening is about growing as an individual, discovering yourself, and learning how to live in a world that seems to be constantly changing. Everyone experiences the teen years differently, some people excel during this time while others feel lost and alone.  All teenagers go through puberty and develop their sexuality with changing bodies and feelings.  Every person in history has gone through this time, whether it was good or awful, he or she got through it.
  • Alyssa's thoughts: The people you encounter in your life and the lessons that you learn from them stay with you always.  Life continues, and spring will come again to those strong enough to weather the struggles of winter. 
  • What does adolescence mean to you?
  • How has adolescence and views on adolescence changed from nineteenth-century Germany?  Any similarities or not?
  • "I am consistently interested in the conflict between how other people identify you and the complex way in which you know yourself."  --Diana Son
                How do the teens learn to identify themselves?  How does this match up or not match up with how the other characters see them?


Sources:

Ekstrom, Melody. Spring Awakening at Ball State University: Dramaturgical Book.Melody Ekstrom. Web. 25 June 2014.

Isherwood, Charles. "Sex and Rock? What Would the Kaiser Think?" The New York Times: Theatre Reviews. 10 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Jun 2014.

Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, subtitled A Children’s Tragedy, was his first major work and the one that made him famous—and infamous. When the play was first produced, many regarded it as pornographic; riots broke out at performances, and the work was subjected to repeated censorship. The play, however, avoids the explicit and obscene, and later generations have come to see it as a powerful creation shaped out of inner experience.

The world of anxiety in which students live and suffer was familiar to Wedekind from his own school years. He shaped Spring Awakening not as a documentary, however; rather, it takes the form of a bizarre fantasy charged with irony. The adults, especially the teachers and the pastor, are grotesque parodies. Even their names resemble the sorts of mocking epithets students might invent. Scenes such as that in which Melchior is interrogated by the faculty and that of Moritz’s funeral are bitter parodies of the cruelty inflicted on children by adults as that cruelty is perceived by the children.

Indeed, Wedekind places all the lyricism and humanity in the play in the world of the young, perhaps for the first time on the German stage giving expression to the experience of this age group. Using naturalist techniques, Wedekind accurately captures the speech patterns and behaviors of young people while lifting them beyond the level of mere naturalism. That the play is allied more with the Symbolist school is evident from the fantasy of the final scenes: the temptation of Melchior by Moritz and his rescue by the “masked man.” Wedekind dedicated the play to this mysterious figure, who clearly represents the life force, perhaps within Melchior himself, which enables him to reject death and return to the world of the living, grotesque though it may be, to experience the fullness of life, of which Moritz, by his suicide, has robbed himself.

Many have considered Wedekind a precursor of German literary expressionism, and Bertolt Brecht considered him to be one of the principal influences on his own political and experimental plays. Spring...

(The entire section is 872 words.)