After The Wall By Jana Hensel: Chapter Analysis

998 Words4 Pages

Jana Hensel was thirteen when the Berlin wall fell, and in her memoir, After the Wall, she laments her youth and the sudden disappearance of the German Democratic-Republic that occurred almost overnight, especially in her memories. While Hensel finds nothing wrong with her now Western life, this memoir is dedicated towards people like her, who even now are straddling the line between the East German past and the West German future, and she discusses her loss of identity through her nostalgia, her transitions, and her parents. In the first chapter, Hensel mentions a moment when she was hanging out with her friends. They had gotten a little drunk and euphoric and nostalgic, and her friends, who were from Italy and France and Austria, suddenly …show more content…

As explained in the previous paragraph, the East was contained and didn’t know much about Western politics and fashion and food. That was why she named this chapter her “Ugly Years,” because she had to transition into a world where appearances and stop looking so Easter, in which she states, “By the mid-‘90s, we’d been part of the West for five years, but we still didn’t know how to dress properly. There was no mistaking where we were from—we just couldn’t get it right.” Hensel admits she spent hours trying to be more Westerner—to sound and act and look Western—but it got to the point that “strangely enough, every time someone thought I was from the West—from Hamburg or Nuremburg—I felt sad.” This is important to note because both sides of her were at war: she wanted to honor her history and childhood, but she felt ashamed now that she found herself in a world where what she had been through as a child wasn’t valued. It is natural to want to fit in, but as she watched even the remnants of her old town change around her, she felt nostalgia for a simpler time—because East Germans didn’t worry about brands and Christmas presents and class the way Western Germans did. So, Eastern Germans like Hensel had to readjust from being this more communal society to one who was class-conscious and overly focused on …show more content…

She brings this up because the moment where she describes feeling like an outsider is when her West German friends asked that when her parents visited, they should all go and watch a movie —a bizarre concept for Hensel and other East Germans because even familial relationships were entirely different than West Germans. While West Germans could call their parents up for advice on love and cry on their shoulders and spend time with them as if they were friends or “young couples in love,” East Germans like Hensel had grown up with a different, more distant relationship with their parents, and East German parents couldn’t be afforded the same luxuries as Western parents as they had lost most of their jobs and were having a much harder time adjusting than their children who more seamlessly blended in with the West. So, for Hensel, she felt as if she had to hide her parents away—from cultural shocks and awkward discussions, and she didn’t feel as if she could quite fit in with the West German and their easy relationships with their parents, which is important because it was just another thing that kept her as an outsider—because while she had learned Western fashion and had learned to see herself as just a German, her parents

Open Document