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Theodor Fontane

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Get access to the full version of this article. View access options below. You previously purchased this article through ReadCube. Institutional Login. Log in to Wiley Online Library. Purchase Instant Access. View Preview. Learn more Check out. Volume 10 , Issue 1 October Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Effi and her daughter areborn in the summer.

While the October marriage and arrival in November in the new home are shrouded in autumnal atmosphere with a promise of a bleak winter to come. The news of Innstetten's promotion comes at the end of winter, so the prospect of a new life in Berlin is offers the hope of a springlike renewal to Effi's life. A Glance over the Literary Landscape Since Effi's travelling companion is reading Zola's Nana when the news comes of the breakdown of her marriage it seems natural to compare this failed marriage novel with some of the others that if not Fontane then his reading audience would be familiar with to bring out some of the distinctive features of Fontane's approach.

The social code is far stricter in Fontane's book this is above all a Prussian story!

Madame Bovary , as far as I recall aspired to a romantic vision of decadent upper class life, while Effi is stuck in the reality of an upper class existence that is intolerant and restrictive, the decadence of the Eulenburg Affair is fasr from her daily experience. Madame Bovary's reading has primed her for a life of voluptuous dissipation, while Effi who never gets to have the full or adult version of her name, instead is forever a Katie and never a Catherine is characterised by her lack of reading and poor education, her consistent reference point is what her old Pastor said.

While in both Tolstoy and Fontane the theme of adultery ends in the woman's death, for Tolstoy this is the result of the woman's choice. She has abandoned her role in the family, and with the aid of further emphatically non-Russian Western decadence in the form of drugs and steam trains she meets her death. Effi is, by contrast, the passive element in the story. Things happen to her and are imposed on her. Her husband's actions, governed by a principled moral code, lead to her being ostracised and the extent of her ostracism is determined by the degree to which society shares or conforms to her husband Innstetten's values.

However Effi has the final word. She thought at the age of seventeen that those principles of his were manly, but comes to realise that that are simply small minded and perhaps those two categories aren't mutually exclusive. Despite this she is able to transcend her society and forgive him, whether that is helpful or meaningful beyond establishing something about her character is another question, in a sense, as a social novel, her forgiving him is a shocking act. In this type of novel, from this type of society, we are used to expecting that the "fallen" woman is the one in need of forgiveness and isn't the one who provides the forgiveness.

Little Effi is the still centre of the book and one leaves with the feeling that it is Innstetten who needed her more than Effi needed him. Here Effi Briest seems to me to be very close to Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Although socially the two books are in completely different worlds the sense of a dominant morally that is pre-Christian and simply vindictive is shared through the imagery of human sacrifice.

Stonehenge in Hardy is the counterpoint of the sacrifice stones that Effi sees in North Germany. Aber das waren ja keine Wenden.

ISBN 13: 9783123518119

The sacrifice stones are 'purely German' and the characters in the novel are the descendants of those Germans who at various foolish points in German history have been lauded as good role models - Fontane is the antidote to that kind of thinking and so is the Grand Old Man of Prussian letters.

While Nana , and Madame Bovary weigh in with leading women who are intrinsically destructive and disruptive to the social order, in Fontane it is the social order itself that is destructive with the potential to crush the joy out of life, and the life out of the individual. The novelist as Craftsman One can see the influence of this novel on Thomas Mann's style in Buddenbrooks. This struck me particularly in the Twenty-eighth chapter which deals with the duel between Innstetten and Crampas.

Rather like some of the chapters in Buddenbrooks this could have been a free standing short story. The references to earlier events are self explanatory. Innstetten's return to Kessin in bright sunshine contrasting to his earlier arrival with Effi after their honeymoon on a gloomy November day.

Effi Briest - German Literature

The efficiency of the description of the actual combat, terse, in stark contrast to the longer description of Crampas' death. The irony of his last words. The lack of emotion in the scene contrasted with the letter that closes the chapter in which Innstetten's Second describes visiting Crampas' widow and explaining to her that she is now, in fact, a widow. The dryness of the stripped down style itself a blow to any reader expecting a great denouement.

This is a duel that provides no satisfaction, save to a man such as Innstetten. Every detail labours to tell part of the story, nothing is superfluous. Towards the next reading Does the positive characterisation of the catholic Roswitha and the detail of Effi's characterisation at home lead in that direction?

Or should this be read in the light of the educational value of literature, had Effi read her Goethe, Heine, or Samuel Richardson might she have been better placed to survive adult life? Innstetten of a like age. Effi Is cousin Dagobert being lined up to be the husband of Effi's daughter? The clergyman's wife - no surprise at the marriage. The mother asking the daughter what she wants, once, twice. Daughter wants material things then worldly honour. On the reread we know this is precisely what she isn't going to get Contrast from the fairy stories they see on stage and at polterarbend.

Quite, instead the life will be like Kaethe's. Question - red lamp as erotic signal - the mother some things better left to the dark. Difficulty of a woman's life ie meaning an upper class woman on public display in a small town.

Emphasis on Effi as a child. From the name euphemia? The bourgeois is reasonable in crampas' and innstetten's view - is this a positive? The greenhouse, a positive image. Typically of a Fontane novel its strength isn't in the plot but in the characters and particularly in how the characters are shown through speech - not just what they say, but also how they talk and how they use conversation. As a side note I enjoyed the difference between the wet and the dry apartments in Berlin - ie whether the plaster in these newly built flats had entirely dried out or not.

View all 21 comments. Effi Briest is an impressive work of Prussian realism and it's definitely classed as a 'tragic novel', one may argue one of the best to come out of the 19th century. The story is simple enough, hardly unique, and been done with similarities many times over since.

Geert von Innstetten, an ambitious nobleman and civil servant on the brink of middle age, makes an uncontroversial marriage to Effi von Briest, the year-old daughter of a former flame.

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Innstetten takes her back to the town in Effi Briest is an impressive work of Prussian realism and it's definitely classed as a 'tragic novel', one may argue one of the best to come out of the 19th century. Innstetten takes her back to the town in Pomerania from which he runs the local administration. A daughter, Annie, is born, but Innstetten is keen to get on, and leaves his young wife on her own where she falls prey to a cunning womaniser, Major von Crampas. Effi was never really fond of Crampas, and the events that follow her early marriage start to take there toll.

She slowly turns from a spritely young girl to someone with heavy melancholy on their shoulders. Once Innstetten gets wind of an affair, he takes matters into his own hands, with a deadly outcome. Whilst a solitude Effi would decline in health with the added turmoil of bouts of despair.

Effi Briest: Mit Materialien (German Edition)

Theodor Fontane based the story on a case he had read about in the newspapers, and it's quite easy to see whilst reading that it could have happened, you feel everything is so real. Fontane was the supreme apologist for Prussian values and his heroes - and villains - are often drawn from the ranks of its modest but warlike squirearchy. Innstetten is another Prussian type: the altruistic bureaucrat. As an old lady from Hamburg once told him: "We hated the Prussians, but such a thing as a corrupt official would have been unthinkable then.

And an old apothecary, is also a portrait of Fontane's own father.

Effi is at the heart of the novel, and it's hearts she is likely to break, I felt for her plight, deeply. She was simply too young to handle the situations presented before her. Later on Effi succeeds in seeing her daughter this after she ends up living alone and is heartbroken to learn Annie has become a father's girl.

For the first and last time Effi looks at those around her as a curse, but in the end she becomes part of the problem herself. For Innstetten and Effi, a sympathetic nature is shown for both, and their destinies are set with seemingly no way out. Fontane presents the story with superiority, and captures life of this period so well.

Here is the problem though, and it isn't with the novel itself but with the version I happened to read. Also Effi had her name misspelled often as Lffi. This didn't completely ruin the novel, but it didn't help either, spoiling, in part what was a fine piece of writing.

View all 11 comments. Subtlety is an art form rarely seen in our era. We live in a time where bombastic, loud, and graphic compete for our senses. But does one really need that much noise and glamor in order to captivate?