A TYPOLOGY OF WOMEN CHARACTERS IN THE GERMAN NATURALIST NOVEL
ROWE, MARIANNE LANGENBUCHER
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
The subject of this study is the image of woman in late 19th century German fiction. Upon examining a multitude of works produced within this time frame, it was found that the "naturalist" novel, in particular, provided a wealth of material on the literary interpretation of woman's place in society. And despite the fact that this genre has not, for the most part, been attributed the distinction of artistic quality, an unbiased analysis reveals that it offers perhaps the most comprehensive, illuminating, and realistic view of the life led by the Wilhelmine woman. The patterns of characterization and themes which emerged thus lent themselves to the formulation of a typology of female characters. It is a typology which reflects the temper of the times: the political, economic, social, and cultural upheaval wrought by the industrial revolution, and the subsequent concern of a group of writers and social reformers for the deterioration of the human condition. Part I of this study documents these efforts, while Part II presents the typology, the literary manifestation of social currents. The first of the female types to evolve from the study is designated the "mother-martyr-saint." This long-suffering wife and mother is posited as the "Grunderzeit" ideal. Her saintly behavior and sacrifices for the family insure the continuation of the established order. Hermann Sudermann's Frau Sorge and Wilhelm Hegeler's Mutter Bertha illustrate this type. The "fugitive into a world of illusion" constitutes the second type. This heroine engages in covert or subconscious rebellion against the "mother-martyr-saint" role. She becomes a distortion of Type 1 and thus represents a fissure in the heroic fascade erected by the "Grunder" society. Heinz Tovote's Mutter!, Gabrielle Reuter's Aus guter Familie, and Hermann Conradi's Adam Mensch represent the variations of Type 2. Type 3, the femme fatale, portrays the woman who is openly ill at ease with her role in society and who is determined to become the master of her fate. But her self-assertion, which is realized through her sexuality, exacts a price: the femme fatale destroys those who come under her influence. Magdalena Dornis, by Felix Hollander, best exemplifies this type of heroine. The woman who has either voluntarily or involuntarily rejected all societal norms is represented in Type 4, the "social outcast." Unlike the other types, this character no longer attempts to realize her potential within the given order. The variants of the "social outcast" are examined and defined in terms of the artist figure in Helena Bohlau's Halbtier, the unwed-mother in Gabrielle Reuter's Das Tranenhaus, and the prostitute in Else Jerusalem's Der Heilige Skarabaus.