Der Amerikaner. Where’s his home? The viewer sees Schabbach as the home of Paul’s family, but Paul himself is divorced from it by years of experience. We don’t really see him while he’s in America; he only now appears in his tailored suit and expensive car, complete with chauffeur. What we do hear of his story is only business. He speaks proudly of how he opened his own factory and how it has grown to comprise eight hundred workers, but it takes multiple queries to force him to admit that he has a woman (whether a wife or otherwise isn’t stated) in America. He entertains the town by throwing a party, at which he gives a rather pompous speech. He returns home as a wealthy man, and a patronizing one at that. He claims that he can help the town with his wealth from America but he does little to effect that claim; he seems more prone to showcase his wealth at every turn. He acts more like a visiting celebrity than a traveler returning home.
At one point, Paul notes that everyone but his mother seems to have changed. As he says this, I am reminded of the accounts that I’ve heard related by students who’ve studied abroad for a semester or a year. They say that the campus doesn’t feel quite the same—everything’s just moved on. It’s a natural thing, and to expect things to be the same after a semester is rather naïve. In my own experience, my own family last February comprised my parents, me, my two younger brothers, and four foster children living in our house. Now it’s just my parents and brothers at home. Consider a term of decades rather than months, and it becomes truly astonishing that Paul seems at all surprised that things have changed. He’s out of touch with his family’s home, the home of his youth. This is why I ask: is Schabbach truly Paul Simon’s home anymore? I don’t think so, though this may beg the greater question: “What is home?” I think there’s a level of connection required to call someplace home that’s missing from Paul’s connection to Schabbach, and he doesn’t seem to be extraordinarily dedicated to restoring this connection.
We see that Paul’s left home and made his fortune far away, and in the process has lost his original home, making one in America, unseen in the film. This home in America, if we only consider the information he provides here, is rather sterile; life revolves around the factory. Is it a good thing, though—to lose one’s original home in favor of a new one? This question is particularly relevant, I think, to us as we embark upon the same journey as Paul (though with a clearly less radical initial departure). Today we make our home at the University; before long we’ll be off making our homes elsewhere as we “settle down” for our burgeoning careers (whatever those may be). But should we try to “go big or go home,” at the expense of the latter? Should we try to become economically successful if it means the loss of our origins, our first and familial home? What about the opposite—ought we to remember our home to the expense of our worldly success? We’ve seen Paul’s answer to that question—he hasn’t quite given up on home, but in the end of the episode he can’t stay for the funeral because of the needs of his factory. I know my answer to that question, as I’m sure others do as well, and it differs strongly from Paul’s. Do other characters answer that question differently as they come home, or are they merely looking for an opportunity to strike gold, at all costs?