“I Don’t Understand American Morals” — A Passage from Heinrich Böll’s Novel The Clown

A passage from Heinrich Böll’s novel The Clown, new in print again from Melville House–

Most films which children are allowed to see are full of whores. I have never understood what the boards who grade the films have in mind when they pass this type of film for children. The women in these films are either whores by nature, or they are whores in a sociological sense; they are almost never compassionate. In some Wild West saloon there are these blondes dancing the cancan, while rough cowboys, goldminers, or trappers then go after the girls and try to go up to their rooms with them, they usually have the door slammed in their face, or some brutal swine cruelly knocks them down. I take it this is meant to express something like virtuousness. Cruelty where compassion would be the only humane thing. No wonder the poor devils start beating each other up and shooting — it’s like football at school, only it is even crueller, since they are grown men. I don’t understand American morals. I suppose over there a compassionate woman would be burned as a witch, a woman who does it not for money and not out of passionate love for the man, but simply out of pity for masculine nature.

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