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Airship Beatrice

“Her smooth skin, her little gondola. How he wanted to climb into her little gondola.”
– “Beatrice,” Karin Tedbeck

The titular characterAirships Beatrice isn’t a human, but the ‘character’ is given qualities of a human woman. It, or rather she, is a prototype airship Franz Hiller sees in a Berlin fair. The attraction Hiller feels for Beatrice is remarkably human and borderline sexual. For example, a quote that describes Beatrice: “Her body was voluptuous, oblong, matte skin wrapped tightly over a gently rounded skeleton” (15).  To Hiller, the airship isn’t just a simple airship prototype, but a real woman.

The personification and objectifition of the airship Beatrice don’t stop there. The very first quote at the top, which states that Hiller wants to climb into her little gondola, sounds a bit too intimate to be considered normal behavior. He wants to express his physical attraction through touch, like for example going into the cordon or by climbing into the gondola.  Also, it is interesting to note that at one point, Hiller steps into Beatrice and smells musk, a scent that can be associated with sex. The line “how she dipped under his weight” may also recall images of sex, of how a man presses down into a woman.

In the later pages, Beatrice is described as having a cold and distant attitude towards Hiller. Later, when Hiller shows Beatrice Anna’s baby, Hiller conveys ‘approval.’ Toward the end of the story, we are given the confession that apparently Hiller ‘raped’ Beatrice. Therefore, Beatrice is no simple airship, nor a simple technology. She is a real woman in the eyes of Franz Hiller, and she possesses a sexuality and personality as if she is organic.

This obsession with an inanimate airship might in part be due to Hiller’s crumbled psyche, in which his attraction (or lack of) to a real woman becomes superimposed onto an airship. The damaged mental health Hiller suffers from persists even when another character enters his life: Anna’s baby Josephine. Despite being a real human, Josephine is treated like an engine. Her mouth is referred to as a piston; she is eventually fed coal-water; and the noises Josephine makes are described as whistles and tweets. It isn’t until Josephine actually talks that the reader realizes that Josephine is an actual human being, and not a delusional fantasy of Hiller’s creation.


One Response to “Airship Beatrice”

  1. Excellent work here, Yue. As you see, I’ve edited it all into present tense, which makes it read a bit more smoothly.

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