Hans Schnier (shneer), a professional clown. All events in this first-person novel are seen through the eyes of Hans, the twenty-seven-year-old son of a wealthy industrialist. He is not, however, the typical son of a rich businessman. As a youth, he showed little aptitude for school, and he has never had any interest in business. Instead, Hans has the character traits and temperament of an artist: He is spontaneous, impulsive, creative, naïve, and innocent, and he cannot feign feelings that he does not possess. Nor can he, as someone once urged him, “be a man.” To “be a man,” he would have to become like everyone else, which he cannot and will not do. Similarly, he cannot act on his father’s criticism that he lacks the very quality that makes a man a man: the ability to accept a situation. Hans, unlike most of his friends and acquaintances, does not want to accept the past and gloss it over, nor does he want to be merely swept along by the new tide of democracy. These qualities make him a misfit and an outsider. The loss of Marie destroys his primary link to the real world. Without her, he turns more and more to drink and ends up alone, playing his guitar and singing for a few coins from passersby at the train station.
Marie Derkum (DEHR-kuhm), the young woman whom Hans considers to be his wife, although they are not legally married. Sweet, trusting, and religious, Marie is in many ways the antithesis of Hans: She is from a very poor background, performed well in school, and is a devout Catholic. In time, her desire to return to the good graces of the church and to have a conventional, church-sanctioned marriage overcomes her love of Hans, and she leaves him to marry Prelate Züpfner.
Alfons Schnier, the director of a...
(The entire section is 769 words.)