Theodor Storm was both a lyric poet and a writer of fiction. Immensee, one of his earliest and perhaps best-known stories, is similar to his poetry in its lyricism and its poetic language.
Storm’s poetry and his early stories tend to express nostalgia for a happier world, often a world of youth. Nature is a looming presence. The individuals are simplified almost to the point of being allegorical figures. There are usually only a few characters in each story, and there is such an intense concentration on the main character that the other characters sometimes seem shadowy. Symbols are obvious yet effective. Characters do not seem to be clearly located in time and place, although the northern Germany of Storm’s homeland is the presumed backdrop. After Immensee, the reality in Storm’s narratives increased, but he never fully lost the poetic language and Romantic imagery that had first gained him his reputation.
The two lovers in Immensee seem helpless before fate. The young poet Reinhard is strangely reluctant to make direct contact with his beloved after he goes away to school. Elisabeth, a less clearly defined character, is apparently too timid to make her desires known, yet she writes very clearly and decisively in her letter to Reinhard. Even the character who displays determination, the mother, who separates the lovers because she wants Elisabeth to marry a practical, prosperous man, does not come to life. The story nevertheless has a strong appeal because it is a timeless fable of love and loss. Its few symbols recur repeatedly as motifs, gaining more intensity with each recurrence.
Most of the...
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