(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz

Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz, a talented poet of the German Storm and Stress movement. At the age of twenty-seven, Lenz is no longer able to write and has gone to the small town of Waldbach, hoping to ease his mental suffering, which verges on insanity. His alternating mood swings and strange behavior reveal a deeply troubled personality. Physically, Lenz is shy and blond, with a child’s face and generally unkempt clothes. As a writer, he opposes idealism and insists instead on a reality portrayed so that the reader responds emotionally. At the beginning of this prose fragment, Lenz is desperate to save himself from the abyss of madness. Amid the normal, everyday activities of the village and with the soothing company of Oberlin, he finds a certain amount of peace and is able to fit into society. His tenuous hold on sanity is soon upset by the thought that he might have to leave Waldbach, and he begins to show increasing symptoms of mental breakdown: He suffers tremendous guilt and a religious crisis; he uses self-inflicted pain to combat the cold, dead feeling inside; he creates strange pranks in his mind and makes horrible faces; he talks to himself constantly to dispel an intense loneliness; and finally, when his attacks begin to occur during the day as well as at night, he attempts suicide.

Johann Friedrich Oberlin

Johann Friedrich Oberlin, a Pietist pastor in...

(The entire section is 571 words.)