Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Having creditably completed his studies in Göttingen in spite of a somewhat dissipated life, Adolphe is expected, after a preliminary period of travel, to take his place in the governmental department of which his father, the minister of a German electorate, is the head. His father has great hopes for his son and is inclined to be lenient about his indiscretions, but because of an inherent timidity shared by father and son—a timidity combined, on the part of the father, with a defensive outward coldness—no real sympathy is possible between the two.
The constraint generated by this relationship has a considerable effect on Adolphe’s character, as does a period he spends as the protégé of a much older woman whose strong and unconventional opinions make an indelible impression on him. This period, spent in long, passionately analytical conversations, ends with the woman’s death.
Upon leaving the university, Adolphe goes to the court of the small German principality of D——. At first, he is welcomed, but he gradually attracts resentment for his mannered frivolity, alternating with scathing frankness, which stem from his profound indifference to the society of the court. The woman who formed his mind bequeathed to him an ardent dislike of mediocrity and all of its expressions, and he finds it difficult to reconcile himself with the artificiality of society and the necessity for arbitrary convention. Moreover, his only interest at that...
(The entire section is 1490 words.)
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