Themes and Characters
Heidi is a book of absolutes, with definite vices and definite virtues. The chief vices are selfishness, hypocrisy, and materialism, as embodied mostly in the minor characters: Heidi's Aunt Dete, the Sesemanns' head housekeeper Fraulein Rottenmeier, and the villagers. The virtues are equally clear and include love for others, faith in God, humility, and respect for nature. The "good" people—Heidi and her grandfather, Peter's blind grandmother, Herr Sesemann, his invalid daughter Clara, and Grandmamma Sesemann—are easily recognized as such. Peter, the goatherd, is the only neutral character. He is basically lazy, somewhat simpleminded, and very jealous, but he is a friend of Heidi's and embodies the essence of pastoral life. He also learns the power of prayer and forgiveness at the end, which makes him the only character to grow; all the other "good" characters are good when the story begins.
The vices in this book are obvious when they appear. Dete reveals her selfishness with her treatment of Heidi, whom she considers little more than a piece of baggage left behind by her dead sister. Dete cares for the girl when it is convenient or when she has something to gain by it but abandons her when she has better things to do. The opening scene, in which she delivers Heidi up to her grandfather, whom everyone fears, makes her selfishness clear. Similarly, when she snatches Heidi away after her grandfather has grown to love her, Dete again acts for her...
(The entire section is 1232 words.)
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