Berlin Stories

In the section titled Sally Bowles, of Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories, the protagonist of the novel, Chris, relates his tumultuous relationship with an aspiring actress named Sally. The presence of money, or lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the entire novel. Sally is interested in finding wealthy gentlement whom she can swindle with her good looks and charm. Sally and Chris confide in each other and are engaged in a platonic relationship. They jokingly referred to each other as “gold diggers” when they both befriend and financially benefit from a wealth gentleman named Clide.

Germany’s dire economic conditions are implicitly referenced throughout the text. One morning Chris’s landlord, Frl. Schroeder, woke him up in a frantic state and exclaimed “they’ve shut down the Darmstadter und National! There’ll be thousands ruined, I shouldn’t wonder! The milkman says we’ll have civil war in a fortnight! (57) Although there was a note on the bank that indicated that everyone’s deposits were guaranteed, the fear of financial meltdown was always in the back of people’s minds. The growing distrust of the German economy ultimately contributed to the system’s collapse because people lost faith in the banks. Weary individuals would withdraw their entire savings accounts, leaving the banks in a state of dissarray because there was not enough money on hand to meet demand.

Do you believe that Germany’s financial collapse and accompanying hyperinflation could have been less devastating if people would have behaved less drastically and maintained faith in the banking system?