Why is Ulrich called "the man without qualities" in The Man Without Qualities? 

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You are correct in labeling Ulrich as the title character.  He is truly a “man without qualities” in that he has no real thoughts of his own and allows the other characters to make decisions for him.  In this way, Ulrich becomes the “ultimate observer” in that other people’s choices and opportunities are simply reflected through him.   He is a military “officer” without a real military rank who aimlessly drifts into a role of leadership planning the Collateral Campaign in order to celebrate two political anniversaries of Austria-Hungary.  Ulrich is used by the author, Robert Musil, in order to augment the characterization of the others mentioned in the book.  In this way, Ulrich becomes the ultimate passive character, telling us about other people in his world such as Walter (Ulrich’s best friend), Clarisse (one of Ulrich’s most desirable prospects), Agathe (Ulrich’s twin sister), as well as many others by speaking about them in the third person.  Ulrich completes his journey as he totally withdraws from society after the death of his father.  Ulrich has no real “qualities” of his own and relies on the other characters' actions and decisions to lead him through an aimless life. 

Read the study guide:
The Man Without Qualities

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question