Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1308
Johann Buddenbrook (YOH-hahn BOO-dehn-brohk), the stout, rosy-faced, benevolent-looking patriarch of the Buddenbrook family. He is the wealthy, successful senior partner of a grain-trading firm inherited from his father.
Johann “Jean” Buddenbrook, Jr.
Johann “Jean” Buddenbrook, Jr., called The Consul, his serious-looking, aquiline-nosed, blond-bearded first son by his second wife. Jean combines the sentimentalist and the businessman. He rejoices over a happy family gathering, worries about the alienation of his half brother, Gotthold, from the family, and then advises coolly that Gotthold’s request for money be denied because of likely future results to both family and firm. Jean’s pietism seems foreign to the other Buddenbrooks, whose religion is superficial and confined to conventional sentiments proper to people of their class.
Antonie (Tony) Buddenbrook
Antonie (Tony) Buddenbrook (AHN-toh-nee), later Frau Grünlich, and Frau Permaneder, Jean’s oldest child. She has ash-blonde hair, gray-blue eyes, and finely shaped but stumpy hands. Impetuous in youth, she becomes conventional in maturity, but to her brother Tom she always remains a child in her reactions to the incidents in her life. She easily adapts herself to any situation; she is not humiliated by the dissolution of her marriage to Grünlich and is proud of the fact that she becomes a person of importance in the family. She adapts as readily to the breaking up of her marriage to Permaneder. As she develops a closer intimacy with her father following her first divorce, she recognizes and establishes closer ties with Tom after the death of their father. She sees the two of them as true Buddenbrooks, for their brother Christian does not really seem one of the family, and young Clara remains an unimportant sister. The retention of dignity for both herself and the family becomes almost a religion with Tony.
Tom Buddenbrook, Jean’s older son (modeled upon Thomas Mann’s father). A quick-witted, intelligent, even-tempered boy, he becomes a strong, sturdy youth resembling his grandfather Johann. As he matures, he develops a stocky, broad-shouldered figure and a military air. His excessive clothes consciousness seems out of character for a Buddenbrook. An earnest, responsible businessman, he is proud of his burgher ancestry, and he contrasts his own desire to preserve the family name with the lack of imagination and idealism shown by Gotthold, his father’s half brother. He is increasingly disgusted with Christian’s business irresponsibility and his reputation as a strange kind of clown. He cannot forgive Christian’s joking observation in company that all businessmen are swindlers. In his prime, Tom is more aggressive than the earlier Buddenbrooks, but occasionally a little less scrupulous. His participation in public affairs and his interest in culture set him somewhat apart from his ancestors and his business associates. Early in his forties, he becomes increasingly aware that he has grown prematurely old, and he thinks more and more of death. At forty-eight he feels that death is stalking him. He dies not many months later following a fall in a snowy street after the partial extraction of a rotted tooth.
Christian Buddenbrook (KRIHS-tee-ahn), Jean’s younger son. A born mimic, he is a moody, whimsical, sometimes extravagantly silly boy. As a youth, he first betrays his weakness for pretty women and his deep interest in the theater. During an eight-year absence from home, principally in South America, he becomes lean and pallid, his large humped nose more prominent, his neck thinner, his hair sparse. Through association with Englishmen abroad, he himself grows to look like an Englishman. His self-absorption and his lack of dignity in his social manners disturb Tom Buddenbrook’s sense of propriety. Christian becomes more and more a neurotic and a hypochondriac as he ages. After Tom’s death, Christian marries his mistress, who not long afterward has to put him in a mental institution. Like Tom’s son Hanno, he symbolizes the decay of the Buddenbrook family.
Frau Consul Elizabeth Kröger Buddenbrook
Frau Consul Elizabeth Kröger Buddenbrook (ay-LEE-sah-bat KROH-gehr), the wife of Jean Buddenbrook. A woman of the world and a lover of life, she becomes well known in her later years for her piety and her numerous charities. After a long life with her family, she dies of pneumonia.
Clara Buddenbrook (KLAH-rah), the fourth and youngest child of Jean and Elizabeth. Hawk-nosed, dark-haired, and firm-mouthed, she is at times haughty. She marries Pastor Tiburtius, a minister from Riga, and dies childless a few years later.
Gotthold Buddenbrook (GOT-hohld), the elder Johann’s unambitious son by his first wife. Having angered his father by a disapproved marriage and by becoming a shopkeeper, he is thereafter shunned by the family. He resents the favored treatment accorded his half-brother Jean. After his father’s death, Gotthold retires and lives on the income from his inheritance and the sale of his shop. He dies at sixty of a heart attack.
Gerda Arnoldsen Buddenbrook
Gerda Arnoldsen Buddenbrook (GAYR-dah AHR-nold-sehn), an aristocratic Dutch heiress who attends school with Tony. Her immense dowry later influences Tom’s decision to marry her, though he declares to his mother at the time that he loves Gerda. The marriage is a happy one, but Gerda (perhaps modeled in part on Thomas Mann’s mother), with her high degree of refinement, her detached nature, and her intense interest in music, remains somewhat a stranger among the Buddenbrooks.
Little Johann (Hanno) Buddenbrook
Little Johann (Hanno) Buddenbrook, the pathetic, sickly son of Tom and Gerda. He shares his mother’s love of music, and she thinks him a precocious genius. He dies in his teens of typhoid fever. Like his Uncle Christian, Hanno symbolizes the decadence of the family, and with his death the family itself comes to an end, for no male is left to carry on the Buddenbrook name.
Bendix Grünlich (BEHN-dihks GREWN-lihsh), Tony’s first husband, a well-to-do Hamburg merchant and a pink-faced, blue-eyed, golden-whiskered, obsequious flatterer and rascal. His bogus charm takes in Jean, who urges Tony to marry him despite her disgust for him. When his impending bankruptcy later leads him to seek money from Jean, Buddenbrook angrily discovers that Grünlich, even before marrying Tony, had unscrupulously capitalized on his supposed connection with the family. A divorce follows shortly after Tony’s return to her parents’ home with her daughter.
Morten Schartzkopf (MOHR-tehn SCHAHRTS-kopf), a charming, serious-minded, liberal-thinking but naïve medical student whose brief romance with Tony is broken up when Grünlich reports to Morten’s father a prior claim on Tony.
Alois Permaneder (AH-loh-ees PEHR-mah-nay-dehr), Tony’s second husband, a bullet-headed, walrus-like, fat-cheeked man of forty, a Munich brewer. Vulgar in speech and desirous of an easy life, he gets no sympathy from Tony regarding his decision to retire from the brewing business to live on his income from rents and investments. After Tony finds him one night drunkenly forcing his attentions on Babette, the cook, she leaves him. When she seeks a divorce, he willingly agrees to it and returns her dowry because he has no need of it.
Erica Grünlich (AY-rih-kah), the daughter of Tony and her first husband. Tall, fresh-colored, pretty, healthy, and strong, she is occasionally inclined to melancholy moods. Her marriage, after the birth of a daughter, ends in disaster.
Hugo Weinschenk (WIN-shank), Erica’s husband, a crude, pompous, self-made man, the middle-aged Silesian director of a fire insurance company. Convicted of unscrupulous business practices, he goes to prison. Upon his release and after a brief visit with the Buddenbrooks, he disappears.
Friederick Wilhelm Marcus
Friederick Wilhelm Marcus (FREE-deh-rihk WIHL-hehlm MAHR-kos), Jean’s confidential clerk. After Jean’s death, he becomes a junior partner in the Buddenbrook firm. His conservatism counteracts Tom’s occasional tendency to overreach himself.
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