In "Adventures of a German Student" how is the ending of the story foreshadowed in the first paragraph? What can we assume about the narrator?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this short story by Washington Irving, the protagonist Gottfried Wolfgang is sent to Paris as a "cure" from a bout of depression. He is known to be given over to melancholy and doted with a wild imagination. In this way, the reader is "prepared" for the final discovery of the young student's state of dementia:

He had studied for some time at Göttingen, but being of a visionary and enthusiastic character, he had wandered into those wild and speculative doctrines which have so often bewildered German students. His secluded life, his intense application, and the singular nature of his studies, had an effect on both mind and body. His health was impaired; his imagination diseased....His friends discovered the mental malady preying upon him, and determined that the best cure was a change of scene; he was sent, therefore, to finish his studies amidst the splendors and gaities of Paris.

As Poe, Irving plays upon the reader's initial credibility in the narrative account given by one of the characters but from the third person point of view. The 'story within a story' technique leads the reader to accept the first version of events as fact when in reality it is the ranting of a maniac.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial