Keller’s experiences during World War II have led him to view the world as a dark, sinister place. Living in Vienna, the home of Mozart, Keller was a respectable pianist and had a loving family. However the effects of a Nazi government caused him to loose the most precious thing in his life, his family, and affected his life in such a way that he exiled himself from everything that reminds him of them. his guilt is carried by Keller constantly, and we begin to see signs of blame in things that Keller says and does.
Keller continually tells Paul that “Work makes free” – the same words that framed the gateway to the Auschwitz death camp. When Keller joins the Crabbes at a symphony orchestra concert in Darwin, he begins to cry and shout during a Wagner excerpt. He expresses his loss for his wife and son as his wife Mathilde was a Wagner specialist, and Paul discovers the extent of Keller’s pain when he arrives at his lesson one day to find Keller playing and singing Wagner.
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Ultimately, Keller blames himself for his family’s death, saying that he was “too insensitive” to leave Austria when they had the chance as he thought that “The evil would pass… All things pass. ” As a form of self-punishment Keller registered as a Jew to try and find them, and when he was unsuccessful in that, he cut off his finger. Henisch tells Paul that Keller had told him “if he ever felt the desire to play again he would hack off his fingers, one by one”. This serves as a constant reminder to Keller of his family and how his music was unable to save them.
Although Keller’s tragedy lies in his past, it continues to haunt him throughout his life in Australia. hroughout his life, Keller had to deal with the most distressing situation of them all, loosing his family. Although Paul did not have a ‘picture-perfect’ life, Peter Goldsworthy shows a deliberate contrast between Paul’s supportive family and carefree childhood and Keller’s frightful loss of his family during World War II. It is our experiences who make us who we are, and Keller’s story reveals the darker side of human experiences compared to Paul’s.
Keller carries a relentless guilt about his family’s death and blames his passion for music. He attempts to escape the loss of his family by removing himself from Vienna to Darwin. Yet he still cannot forget both his family and love of music Keller’s suffering from his painful past and how his attempt to forget it fails. He believed that he could save his family by performing for Hitler. However after his beloved wife and child were murdered in the Holocaust, he is unable to perceive life the way he did before the war.
He goes to the extent of cutting off his right finger in order to punish himself for his love of music and his misguided arrogance. After the war, he also removes himself physically from Vienna to Darwin where there is no musical culture. His punishment and isolation still fails to erase his past as he still keeps family photo on the piano. His effort to disconnect from memory being unsuccessful is further reinforced in a scene where he is “wobbling to his feet, shouting in German and ” when he hears Wagner music.
Furthermore, the fact that he collects articles about tragic and cruel incident, shows his fainted view of humanity, which is another side effect of the devastation he experienced during World War 2. In Paul’s last visit to Keller, Keller admits that he “[has] been too hard on [Paul]. ” This indicates that he still remember his lost son Eric and considers Paul to be like a surrogate son. In a sense, Keller attempts to fill a void left from the hideous loss. These examples show the hardship associated with forgetting the past and its overwhelming influence on individuals.