Mr. Norris and Communism

Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories consists of two novellas set in Berlin right before and during the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s, the first of which is The Last of Mr. Norris.  This stories chronicles the friendship between William Bradshaw and Arthur Norris.  Mr. Norris proves to be a mysterious and interesting character, as he is a communist during a time which it is dangerous to be so in Germany.

While Norris holds onto his communist beliefs despite the political dangers they cause him, there are some aspects of his personality that do not completely fit with the communist ideology.  Norris holds a few somewhat aristocratic tendencies as a result of his upbringing, despite his poverty at the time which the novel is set.  Bradshaw states that Norris’ “…spirits always sufficiently indicated the state of his finances,” and when he is better off financially, he is more cheerful (41-42).  He also believes that he is at his best when he is surrounded by the material objects which he desires and revels.  Even though Norris holds aristocratic values to more importance than his communist comrades, he is shown to believe steadfastly that the wealthy should use their resources to help the poor.  This characterization portrays Norris as more of a moderate who resonates with more and joins a radical group than a pure communist.