Affluenza In Herman Koch's Novel 'The Dinner'

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Affluenza, or the social issue believed to affect the behavior of upper class individuals regarding empathy and understanding of other people, is an evident rising obstacle in modern America highlighted by author Herman Koch in his novel The Dinner using main characters who struggle to find balance within their dysfunctional upper class family units.
The murder of a homeless woman committed by cousins and main characters Michel and Rick and the subsequent blackmail from Rick’s adopted brother Beau provide several focal points regarding affluenza. When the incident is finally discussed by the four parents attending the dinner, Babette and Serge reveal that Rick was dealing with an immense amount of guilt because of what happened; it reached a point where it began to affect Rick physically (Koch 229). Rick’s feelings of guilt represent one facet of affluenza; he feels guilty as a result of senselessly
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There are mentions of incidents involving Paul and his major temper early on, as well as an internal dialogue vaguely hinting that Paul does not seem to care for the majority of individuals, but it is revealed further on that Paul wears a façade of emotion in order to mask that apathy. When directly challenged and angered, Paul truly believes that he is above any person in his way. During the chapter where Paul is beating Serge with a pan, he pauses only when, “Michel was standing in the doorway. He wasn’t looking at his uncle on the floor, but me. ‘Michel,’ I said. I tried to smile. I let the pan drop. ‘Michel,’ I said again,” (Koch 214). Paul does not feel true remorse for his brother in the entire duration of the story, even when Serge is severely injured by Paul himself. He simply cares for Michel’s approval. The absolute disregard for any other living creature’s wellbeing is a prime example of the upper class

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