Discuss Mann’s use of the two women in Hofgen’s life. To what extent do they represent virtue and vice and therefore the possibilities of salvation and determination? The role of Hofgen is ambivalent, because on various occasions in the novel, he attempts to help his friends. However, these cries remain small, and Hofgen also fears losing his good job from his wealthy patron.
For this reason, he calls himself a ‘totally normal actor’ at the very end of novel, and can't understand why his friends have distanced themselves from him. Juliette and Barbara easily play the two most important women in Hofgen’s life; by further analysis of the two we begin to realise that they are characters made to play redemption and resolution in Klaus Mann’s Mephisto.
At the outset, the various relationships and intimacies Hofgen had with Barbara and Juliette influenced his career positively. He had to denounce his relationship with Juliette his black mistress, Juliette, as he thought that his intended alliance with the Nazis would suffer a setback if he continued in this relationship with her. He desires to achieve greater and better things that prompted him to dumping his former female friends as he now formed an intimate relationship with the Germans.
His relationships with his female friends had to be stopped as it could impede his chances of him forming a close bond with the Adolf Hitler led Nazis, and so Hofgen changed his political views and his moral values in to become successful in his acting profession. Apart from the title’s allusion to Goethe’s Faust, the inclusion by Klaus Mann of several passages from the play, in particular the fact that Hofgen’s real success arises from his playing the role of Mephisto in Faust, reinforce the connection between his novel and Goethe? play. The obvious common theme of ambition and the desire for its satisfaction is met by the shared theme of the ‘good angel’ – the upright and virtuous woman who offers some form of redemption to the fallen man. In Faust’s case, this is the young and pious Gretchen, through whose intercession his soul is finally redeemed – and in Hofgen’s case, this is his first wife Barbara. Their marriage is, however, never consummated and ends in divorce.
Initially, Hofgen’s description of Barbara questions why he would want to marry her in the first place - ‘could be pretty,’ ‘rough lips’ and ‘rough fingers’ – Barbara defines an unrefined piece of female sexuality with ‘man-ish’ traits: The image that ‘she never [wears] makeup’ contributes to her virginal and angelic appearance, while her ‘ash-blonde hair’ and ‘dark blue eyes’ make her, visually, the perfect example of a member of the Aryan race.
Juliette, on the other hand, is represented as the ‘dark lady’ in Hofgen’s life - both literally, of course, and figuratively since it describes her personality: ‘She had a taste, which she was unable to control, for taking a riding whip to those of her acquaintances and colleagues with whom she was not in entire agreement’, contradicting Barbara’s warm and ‘affectionate censoriousness’ which has the tendency to arouse Hofgen’s feeling of superiority towards her and emphasise that he is more buoyant, appealing and charming than she could ever be.
Thus, Mann uses Barbara as a tool to highlight Hofgen’s narcissistic role which is directly contrasted with her ‘extraordinary perfect’ character. There is ambiguity evident in areas of Hofgen’s life, in his own attitude and behaviour towards those around him. We see him at times avoiding Ulrichs and his attempts to discuss their collaboration in his theatre venture, while at other times seeming to nurture a ‘Revolutionary Spirit’ – ‘[He maintains], diligently and skillfully, the friendship with Otto Ulrichs. He adapts his every expression and gesture to his audience, never relinquishing his facade. This is evident in the way he courts Barbara, carefully and cunningly manipulating their process of acquaintance: "Barbara was told by Hendrik what he wanted to learn they can", he relates his childhood and family stories in ‘dramatically embelished’ form’. An exception to this pattern of behaviour is Juliette.
Their power-play dynamic makes it occasionally impossible for him to lie to her, as we see when he breaks the news to Juliette of his feelings for Barbara – despite his every intention to remain calm and steady, "His voice trembled, not a smile he wanted to succeed, [he] was alternately pale and red, large drops of sweat stood on his forehead. " Hofgen nevertheless succeeds in arranging his life and the lives of those around him in such a way as to bring him maximum advantage, eventually justifying his complex motives and successfully embracing ambiguity.
The sexual twist in the plot – Hofgen’s affair with Juliette Martens, a dancer of mixed parentage (German father, black African mother) – alludes to the theme of deviant sexuality. Hofgen goes to her for dance lessons at the beginning of the novel, before he gained success playing the role of Mephisto, telling her ‘I'll get you in my power’. She is described by the narrator as the ‘Mistress’ and he the ‘student’ - terms which immediately evoke images of control.
Juliette humiliates Hofgen in many ways – calling him by his real (as opposed to stage) name, by insulting him verbally with names like ‘You piece of comic misery,’ ‘monkey,’ ‘the funniest little pile of dirt’, and the reader is not altogether surprised when a red whip surfaces - a gift from Hofgen and one which Juliette has no reservations about using on him -- this is echoed in Hofgen’s decision to call Juliette not by her real name, but by her stage name, ‘Princess Tebab. Their relationship generates an ambivalent response to the reader, for on the one hand, Mann makes us aware that Hofgen sometimes uses Juliette to make his salvation seem worthwhile, whereas on the other hand it is evident that Hofgen malevolently uses Juliette’s ‘beautiful body’ in a sexual way simply to engender jealousy in Barbara.
The writings of Charles Baudelaire feature prominently in Mann’s Faustus novel, specifically in the relationship between Hofgen and Juliette. Hofgen quotes ‘Hymne a la Beaute’ from Les Fleurs du Mal to Juliette during their dancing lesson: ‘Do you come from heaven or do you come from the" abyss - O Beauty? ’ These poetic images firmly establish in the reader’s mind the ambivalent nature of their relationship.
Other poems with Mann’s references to Juliette’s rhythmic and mesmerising dancing and her “wild[en], but not quite sweet smell’ which mingles ‘exciting and painful to Art with her cheap perfume’ As we have seen, Juliette Martens is, on the one hand, Mephistopheles to Hofgen’s Faust, supplying him with what he needs to achieve the pinnacle of success; on the other hand, she is Faust to Hofgen’s Mephistopheles, looking to him for some form of deliverance from her life as she knows it. Mann’s aim to not show the fetishist aspect of Hofgen and Juliette’s relationship was because he wanted to show how evil (specifically that of
Nazism) results from the ‘distortion of the human spirit’, ‘the perversion of the soul’ and is not simply the result of sexual perversion. Mann uses both Juliette and Barbara to draw attention to his impotencies as a moral human being, as well as to provide a contrast to his lifestyle and behaviour - where Barbara epitomises virtue, Juliette epitomises vice: she is rigorous, condescending, and highly sexually charged; succumbing herself to be the ‘dark mistress’ of the ‘Prince of Darkness’ himself – Hofgen. It is clearly seen how Hofgen’s two women, Barbara and Juliette, strongly impact his lifestyle.