Dame Care is an outstanding example of German Romanticism, a style colored by a kind of world-sadness, completely rural settings, and a sentimental tone. Dame Care covers a wide span of years in its action, but it is gracefully concise without being abrupt. Hermann Sudermann exhibits a paternal sympathy for his characters; perhaps his greatest gift is his understanding of all classes of people.
The novel is an extraordinary study of a human being who becomes trapped by circumstances into sacrificing his life to his family. With great subtlety and psychological penetration, Sudermann portrays the gradual development of Paul’s conviction that his life must be the way it is. Paul longs to be selfish but can never bear to shirk responsibility. He knows that people take advantage of him, but he cannot deny help to those who need him. Sudermann poignantly describes the plight of this conscientious young man, carefully avoiding sentimentality or falseness of tone. He captures the right sympathetic note as he writes about Paul, and the novel’s style is even and restrained throughout, allowing the events to produce the emotional reaction.
Fairy tales form a background for the story of Paul’s growing up and subsequent bondage. They are the only frame of reference young Paul has, as he tries to comprehend the dark and mysterious world. It is natural that he should think of Elsbeth Douglas in the white house as a fairy princess far...
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