Characters Discussed

The narrator

The narrator, a sickly individual who is obsessed with reconstructing his friend Roithammer’s unfinished literary work. He is a middle-aged, highly intellectual, and introspective individual plagued by chronic lung infections. The narrator becomes so involved with his late friend’s life that he moves into his former apartment and seems to reach a similar point of suicidal despair.


Roithammer, the narrator’s friend who has committed suicide. Roithammer was a brilliant intellectual and scholar whose wide-ranging interests included philosophy, mathematics, architecture, and modern music. For a time, he had been a promising student and tutor at the University of Cambridge. He returned, however, to his family estate of Altensam but was stifled by the petty and provincial atmosphere of the surrounding community. This sensitive and highly introspective man was considered an eccentric by the local people. When Roithammer received an inheritance from his father, he planned to design and construct a special round building for his beloved sister. She died soon after its completion. Roithammer then spent a short time in England and returned to Altensam to write an account of his childhood and life in Altensam. He moved into a small attic apartment and worked on ever more succinct versions of his work. Unable to finish his work, he became increasingly depressed and committed suicide.


Höller, a taxidermist from whom Roithammer rents an attic apartment. He later rents it to the narrator and tells him about his friend’s last weeks of life.

The Characters

The two main figures of Correction, the narrator and the deceased Roithammer, are again typical of many Bernhard characters, such as the obsessed Konrad of Das Kalkwerk (1970; The Lime Works, 1973) or the depressed narrator of Beton (1982; Concrete, 1984). All these individuals are highly intelligent, intellectual men driven by a desire to complete some great work. Roithammer and the others are fundamentally alienated from existence and look upon it with a certain detached horror. Roithammer’s concern with mathematics expresses his wish to construct a world which is logically pure and free of contradictions. His treatise is, in part, an attempt to analyze his childhood and the origins of his personality. Bernhard’s characters are acutely self-conscious individuals who constantly reflect upon the conditions of their existence. The death of Roithammer’s sister, ironically upon the completion of the structure he built for her, seems to be the pivotal point in his life, and his alienation culminates in his eventual self-destruction.

Bernhard’s method of characterization in Correction, as in many of his other novels, is somewhat indirect. Since the truth of any person’s existence is, at best, an elusive property, the description of an individual’s motivations and ideas must remain largely circumstantial. Truth is, in existential terms, not absolute or universally valid, but a function of the...

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