A few writers possess the ability to express in a phrase or two an idea to which most of us would less successfully devote pages. Such an artist was Nestroy, and just such an aphorism concerns the relationship between sons and their fathers: "Mir war der verlorene Sohn immer verächtlich, aber nicht deswegen, weil er ein Schweinehirt war, sondern weil er wieder nach Hause gekommen ist" (VI 568). This inversion of the parable's moral expresses the cynicism of one who believed that sons were better off in any condition away from home than under parental domination. Society's norms for morality were a constant source of satire for the author of Lumpazivagabundus. Had Nestroy written a prodigal son comedy following the Biblical plot up to the son's return, the ending would surely have had a cynical twist. A closing tableau, perhaps like the final scene in Lumpazivagabundus, would have projected a bleak future for the son stripped of his independence and cast into his father's mold.



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