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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

290                  MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

tact in the exercise of his authority. Famous is the chapter in which
one of the masters is accused by another of jeopardizing the morals
of his boys by having a mistress: the headmaster is aware of the
facts, but saves the school an excellent teacher by assuming that
the delinquent (more or less) intends to regularize the situation
by marrying the lady (he does not, but keeps his post). The novel
stands out by its presentation of the son-mother motif: Peter is
forced into opposition to his mother, particularly when she tries
to keep him moral by getting him married. Marriage, the novel
demonstrates, is the stamp of respectability, but it may brand deep.
All the poetry of the tale (and there is a deeply probing psychology
in the weft of it) is in the suppressed sexual emotion of Peter before
his marriage, and that dulling of this vibrant emotion into the
animal paternal functions which is the normal result of marriage.
As a grammar school student Peter dreams himself into a sensitive
love of Liesel, the daughter of the Kantor with whom he lodges;
at the university, amid the bestial orgies of German student life
(unsparingly pictured), his dreams of her keep him clean; how-
ever, as the course of events shows, what he loves is not Liesel
but his dream-picture of her: when he sees his headmaster's wife
he has an optical illusion that she is Liesel, and loves her even when
it is clear that she is not; for she is now his dream-picture or his
ideal woman. The situation is tensely dramatic, particularly in
Chapter VII, which is masterly in every detail: the headmaster,
sure of his wife, leaves her with Peter in a room where the red
lamp-shade symbolizes what might be demonic danger - if the
characters were not in the grip of respectability. The headmaster's
wife talks it over with him, and sends him back to Liesel; but she

-  the only Bohemian in the book - refuses to marry into the
teaching profession, though she does very energetically take him
into the forest and seduces him (the only lapse of his exemplary
career); finally she marries a Graf, and is a shining light of society

- which is also life as it is. And thus we know that all a teacher
(particularly) has to hope for is to grow mouldy, and to put up
with his wife and children - and colleagues; and to talk grandi-
loquently of the contentment of home and duty. Marriage keeps
Jean Paul's Schulmeisterkm in the clouds; Peter Michel it brings
dowa to pipe and slippers and sloppy sentiment. In his next three
tales Friedrich Huch specializes in the somewhat painfully detailed
transcription, deduced by adult divination, of processes in the