The Outcast – Monologue (Mr. Y)

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A monologue from the play by August Strindberg

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Poet Lore, v. xvii. Autumn 1906. Number 111.


Well! It happened this way! I was a student at Lund and wanted a loan from the bank. I had no serious debts and my father had some money — though not much.

I had sent my note to the second man for his signature as my security, and, contrary to my expectations, it was returned with a refusal. — I sat there for a moment, benumbed by the blow, for it was a disagreeable surprise, very disagreeable! —

The paper lay before me on the table and the letter lay near it. At first my eyes wandered disconsolately over the fatal lines that held my sentence —

it was by no means my death sentence, for I could very easily get another security, as much as I wanted for that matter — but, as I said, this was very unpleasant, anyhow; and as I sit there,

perfectly innocent, gradually my looks fasten on the signature to the letter, which in the right place might, perhaps, have been the making of my future.

The signature was an unusual piece of caligraphy — you know that you can sit thinking and at the same time completely cover a piece of blotting paper with the most insignificant words.

I had a pen in my hand — so, and as it happened, it began to write — I do not affirm that there was anything mystical — spiritual behind this — for I do not believe in such things. —

It was a purely thoughtless, mechanical process — I sat there and time after time copied that beautiful autograph — of course without the least intention of profiting in any way by so doing.

By the time the letter was scrawled all over, I had gained perfect skill in drawing the name — and then I forgot everything. I slept soundly and heavily all night and when I wakened it seemed to me that I had dreamed, but I could not remember what the dream was;

only it seemed as if a door were opened a little and as if I could see the writing-table and note like a memory — when I rose I felt myself driven toward the table, just as if, after mature consideration, I had made an irrevocable decision to sign that name to that most fateful paper.

All thoughts as to the consequences of this risk had disappeared — there was no doubt — it was almost as if I had some cherished duty to perform — and I wrote. What can it have been? Was it hypnotism, suggestion as it is called?

If so, by whom? I slept alone in my room. Could it have been my uncivilized self, the savage who recognizes no contracts, who, while my consciousness slept, came to the front with his criminal desires and his incapability of reckoning the consequences of an action?

Tell me … what do you think of the matter?

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