What is a summary of Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beware of Pity was written by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig in 1939 and is set at the start of World War I. The central theme of pity is developed through the protagonist Lieutenant Anton Hofmiller, who meets Edith, the paralyzed daughter of Herr Lajos von Kekesfalva, a substantially rich nobleman, when invited to the nobleman's home to dine. Without realizing Edith is disabled, Hofmiller asks Edith to dance, infuriating her and making her feel ashamed of her condition. His feelings of pity for Edith lead him to bring her flowers the next day and to develop a friendship he doesn't truly want with the family. As the friendship persists, Edith begins to realize she can use feelings of pity to manipulate others into getting what she wants.

Hofmiller's pity leads him to commit further wrongful acts. For example, he lies to Edith by telling her that her Doctor, named Condor, has developed an innovative treatment that may cure her disability. Condor is at first furious when he learns of Hofmiller's lie but decides that, if she develops an optimistic attitude, she may actually be able to overcome her disability. Condor and Hofmiller promise not to tell her there is no innovative treatment.

Soon, Edith confesses her love for Hofmiller, making Hofmiller feel furious and guilty about his own actions because he knows he only acted out of pity, which mislead her. Hofmiller rejects her love, but when Edith blackmails him with a warning she will commit suicide, he agrees to marry her but only if she overcomes her disability. However, when confronted in public by his friends in his military regiment about the engagement, he feels too ashamed about the affair and flat out denies it. But lying to the military means substantial consequences; he knows that when the military learns the truth about the engagement, he will "no longer be able to wear the epaulettes of an officer."

He tries to break the engagement with Edith and ask her forgiveness, but that only leads to her promised suicide, and her suicide leads to her father's death as well. Soon he is called to serve on a front line of World War I and, feeling overwhelmed by guilt, very gladly goes.

shmindle | Student

Beware of Pity is a novel by Stefan Zeig. In this book, Antin Hofmiller is invited to dinner by Herr Lajos von Kekesfalva. Antin asks the host's daughter, Edith, to dance with him. He quickly becomes embarrassed at the fact that Edith is crippled. The next day, Antin brings flowers for Edith out of pity. Edith, however, uses her condition to manipulate other people due to their pity for her. Because of his pity for her, Antin goes as far as to tell her that Condor, her doctor, has a treatment plan for her. This obviously is a lie, but Condor tells Antin that if they continue to lie about this plan, it is possible for Edith to recover based on a more positive attitude. Meanwhile, Edith falls in love with Antin, but is rejected. In a desperate plea, Edith threatens him with suicide, and Antin reluctantly agrees to marry her, also to give in to her father's request. When Antin lies about the engagement, he realizes that he cannot return to that family again. His message for forgiveness does not go through to Edith, and she commits suicide. Her father dies shortly afterward due to his daughter's death. Antin is sent to war and learns to forgive himself, but when he returns, he bumps into Condor. This makes him realize that he cannot truly get rid of his crimes due to his pity.

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