Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
Berlin Alexanderplatz covers some eighteen months in the life of Franz Biberkopf, beginning with his release from Tegel Prison and ending with his release from the Buch Insane Asylum. Within this period Biberkopf, a slow-witted but vigorous man, suffers three shattering blows which mark his passage from naive and hubristic individualism to a mature mutualism.
Biberkopf has served a four-year term for manslaughter: He had, in a jealous rage, attacked his mistress Ida with a cream-whipper. Ida, whose chest had been pierced by the wire coil of the implement, died after five weeks of hospitalization. Biberkopf, the ex-convict, is determined now to lead a decent life and to achieve an orderly existence. His determination is bolstered by his sense of self-sufficiency but will be frustrated by failings in his own character.
His reluctance to part from the gates of Tegel at the gateman’s urging indicates that the order he desires is actually behind him, in the security of the prison. His release from prison is equivalent to expulsion from Eden. After a streetcar ride into Berlin, his insecurity becomes disorientation and terror before the chaos of freedom. He has hallucinations of roofs leaving their houses. He is taken in by two Jews, who befriend him and restore him to calm. Leaving them, he gets back into the stream of freedom by enjoying prostitutes and visiting Ida’s married sister Minna, who shows affection for him but will not...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Franz Biberkopf is released from Tegel prison, where he served four years for killing his girlfriend in a drunken rage. Back in Berlin, he decides to go straight. He begins to peddle bow ties on a street corner and drifts into selling other merchandise. At the same time, he starts an affair with Polish Lina and gets involved fleetingly with a bewildering series of political movements, ranging from homosexual rights to the Nazi Party. His wearing of the Nazi armband angers his worker friends, who expel him from his favorite pub. However, his real troubles begin after he enters in a partnership with Otto Lüders. After Lüders robs and assaults one of his customers, to whose apartment he gained access by using Franz’s name, Biberkopf is forced to flee to an obscure part of the city to avoid complications.
A few weeks later, Franz returns to his usual haunts and takes up a job as a newspaper vendor. He also begins to consort with the flashy miscreant Reinhold. Reinhold is adept at making women fall in love with him, but he tires quickly of each new conquest and devises a system for Franz to help him. Each time Reinhold tires of a girlfriend, Franz throws off his current mistress and takes Reinhold’s latest castoff. When Franz becomes sincerely attached to Cissy, one of Reinhold’s rejects, he refuses to comply further. Indeed, he tells Reinhold’s girlfriend how things stand. This infuriates Reinhold, though he pretends to acquiesce in Franz’s...
(The entire section is 851 words.)