The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum


Heinrich Böll uses his novel, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, to attack modern journalistic ethics as well as the values of contemporary Germany. The structure of this novel is important to conveying his message. He uses a police report format, differences in chapter lengths, narrator or author intervention, a subtitle, and the extensive use of the ?puddle? metaphor. All these things contribute towards the message in the text.

The puddle metaphor is the most significant device used in the structure of the novel. The "puddle" means the collective information from all the sources. The narrator speaks of the information as ?fluid? and he also talks of the ?conduction? of the information coming from these different sources. There are different types of sources. There are major and minor sources, subterranean streams, and sources "that can never come together". The major sources are the police transcripts, Blorna (attorney) and Hach (public prosecutor). The minor sources are Katharina?s brother, Else Woltersheim, etc. The subterranean streams are the ?leaks? from the offices of the law e.g. police department. Of course this could also be criticizing contemporary Germany for allowing such things to occur. The sources "that can never come together" are the ones that can never be used in a court of law e.g. the phone conversations. The narrator or author uses this metaphor make the story flow and as a way a telling the reader why something has to be done e.g. the rerouting of the channels since there is something the reader has to know that happened before and the story or the channel cannot continue on it?s current path. In the end, the metaphor is used very effectively and the reader can see why it was necessary to think of all the information as just one puddle getting bigger and bigger. Of course the narrator makes it very clear that he does not want blood flowing through these channels since the blood as nothing to do with big picture, the big picture meaning the message that he is trying to convey.

As said before, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is in a police report format. The tone is very formal and it is extremely detailed and logical (stereotypically German). Right from the start the reader can sense a message the author is trying to convey. The subtitle How Violence Develops and where it can lead gives the reader a sense of a trail to follow, or in this case a channel. The story that takes place in this novel is in the period between Wednesday, February 20 and Sunday, February 24, 1974. Around this time is the celebratory period of Carnival. However there is no hint of any celebratory moods in the tone. It is all extremely formal. It can be said that the format of this book is related to how Katharina Blum herself lives her life. The possible reason that this story is set in this police report format is that Heinrich Böll wants the reader to know the facts since all the facts come together in the end. The story uses flashbacks so the reader knows what is happening somewhere else at the same time. It could be said that the reader is finding out all this information in the same order as the police investigation. It seems that the information is scattered and, just like the police, the reader has to try and piece together the puzzle. However, this is all done for the reader in the end. This is another example of how the ?puddle? metaphor is used. The information scattered means that the channel is always changing course.

The tone of this story, and even the text itself says that this is a police report, but the use of short and long chapters could possibly suggest something different. In the short chapters there are little ?bursts? of action, whilst in the longer chapters it goes into far more detail. This is like a newspaper in a way, the headlines with the ?bursts? of action, and the pages the story is continued on go into more detail, however, this reasoning is probably incorrect since the author is trying to attack the newspaper. It is however possible that the author is subtly trying to show how he thinks newspapers should be written, using these short and long chapters as examples. The police report really starts