Effi Briest Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Hohen-Cremmen

Hohen-Cremmen (HOH-uhn KREHM-uhn). Large country estate in the Mark Brandenburg region of northeastern Germany whose manor house has belonged to the Briest family since the early seventeenth century. The manor house is covered in ivy, has parklike grounds, a pond, a swing, and colorful flowerbeds. It borders on the churchyard wall, and its pastor is an important mentor to young Effi von Briest. The Briests live securely in the comfort of inherited wealth. Effi’s father need only concern himself with grain prices and can otherwise take long walks through the fields and enjoy his magnificent surroundings.

An early sign that modern life is passing the Briests by is the sound of a modern through-train half a mile away. A change in the grounds at the end of the novel sends a similar message. When Effi dies, her parents remove the sundial from the circular flowerbed and replace it with her gravestone. Her time has run out, as has the time of the landed gentry with their large country estates.

Kessin

Kessin. Small German port in Pomerania on the Baltic Sea. Elements of the fictional town of Kessin are modeled on Theodor Fontane’s memories of Swinemünde, where he lived as a boy. The lodgings that Effi’s new husband, Baron von Innstetten, rents are nothing more than two rooms on the main floor of an old-fashioned framework house formerly owned by a sea captain. In some ways, it seems as if the former inhabitants are still present. Hanging from the ceiling in the front hall are the captain’s model ship in full sail, a stuffed shark, and a crocodile. However, the effect of these unusual objects is negligible in comparison with the apparent presence of restless spirits who make the upper floor uninhabitable for Effi, who hears sounds of gowns sweeping across the floor and...

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Effi Briest Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Greenberg, Valerie D. “The Resistance of Effi Briest: An (Un)told Tale.” PMLA 103, no. 5 (October, 1988): 770-782. A revisionist interpretation of the novel as Effi’s struggle for liberation. A close reading of Effi’s last remarks to her mother reveals that each point can be read in opposition to its surface meaning.

Riechel, Donald C. “Effi Briest and the Calendar of Fate.” Germanic Review 48, no. 3 (May, 1973): 189-211. Points out that the narrative structure and content of Effi Briest are informed by Fontane’s autumnal sense of the existence and influence of an order inaccessible to reason.

Subiotto, Frances M. “The Ghost in Effi Briest.” Forum for Modern Language Studies 21 (1985): 137-150. Analyzes the ghost as a metaphor for all that is absent: suitable living quarters, action, love, and opportunities for women in Prussian society. Sees Effi Briest as a paradigm of the solitary state of the individual.

Turner, David. “Theodor Fontane: Effi Briest.” In The Monster in the Mirror, edited by D. A. Williams. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1978. Examines Effi Briest in the context of contemporary European literature. Discusses what makes Fontane’s treatment of the subject matter realistic, as well as his accurate detail and skillful use of leitmotivs and symbols.

Zwiebel, William L. Theodor Fontane. New York: Twayne, 1992. Contains a concise summary of important critical observations on the genesis of Effi Briest, the four narrative sections, the role of predestination, Fontane’s criticism of Prussian society, and the function of the ghost.