Characters Discussed

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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

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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 individual perspective of each person. Bernhard is also well aware that language, which is imprecise and misleading, often tends to obfuscate rather than clarify reality. Thus, he tends to characterize his figures obliquely, through the views of others. That places a greater burden on the reader to construct the character from the evidence presented, quite different from the more traditional techniques of characterization in novels that employ an omniscient narrator. In The Lime Works, for example, the story of Konrad and his wife is told through the views and opinions of neighbors and officials. In Correction, the reader learns of Roithammer’s life and death mostly indirectly through the observations of the narrator and through the account of his last weeks by the landlord, Holler. These are clearly biased accounts. The narrator both admires and fears Roithammer, whose powerful intellect has dominated his friend’s life. Holler admires and respects his tenant.

Conversely, what is known of the narrator is learned through his obsession with Roithammer. Even though the text is a monologue, the former’s personality is revealed only as a result of his attempt to explain his friend’s project and his suicide. Even in the last section, when the narrator comes to talk more of his own feelings, these thoughts are more a reflection of Roithammer’s personality, since the narrator himself seems at the brink of suicide. Living in the attic room where his friend spent his last days and obsessed with carrying out the latter’s revisions of his work, the narrator becomes Roithammer.


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Botond, Anneliese, ed. Uber Thomas Bernhard, 1970.

Dierick, A.P. “Thomas Bernhard’s Austria: Neurosis, Symbol, or Expedient?” in Modern Austrian Literature. XII (1979), pp. 73-93.

Fetz, Gerhard. “The Works of Thomas Bernhard: Austrian Literature?” in Modern Austrian Literature. XVII, nos. 3/4 (1984), pp. 171-192.

Meyerhofer, Nicholas. Thomas Bernhard, 1985.

Rietra, Madeleine. “Zur Poetik von Thomas Bernhards Roman Korrektur,” in In Sachen Thomas Bernhard, 1983. Edited by K. Bartsch, D. Goltschnigg, and G. Melzer.

Wolfschutz, Hans. “Thomas Bernhard: The Mask of Death,” in Modern Austrian Writing, 1980. Edited by A. Best and H. Wolfschutz.




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