*East Prussia. Province in the extreme northeastern part of Germany that bordered on Russia when the novel was written and extended to the Baltic Sea. (It was divided between Poland and Russia after World War II.) Primarily agricultural, the province had only one large city, Königsberg, its capital. Hermann Sudermann was intimately familiar with the area, and his novel offers realistic descriptions of its landscape, its seasons, and its rituals, which included the observance of midsummer night.
Mussainen (moos-SI-nen). Poor farmhouse of the Meyerhofer family in a fictional village in an outlying region of Germany. The house is located on a moor some distance beyond the village, perhaps to emphasize its remoteness. After having been abandoned by its former owner, it is in desolate condition, and its new residents, the Meyerhofers, are too poor to afford anything better. The Meyerhofers are in dire circumstances; the father does not work regularly and squanders his meager resources on financial speculations and alcohol. The mother is physically and emotionally frail and is completely dominated by her husband. Of their five children, only Paul cares about the farm. It is he who rebuilds it after it is burned down by a disgruntled farmhand. At the end of the novel Paul himself burns the house down to distract his father, who is about to set a nearby estate, Helenenthal, on fire to avenge his eviction by the estate’s new owner.
There seems to be a curse on Mussainen, though not explicitly uttered. An allegorical figure, Dame Care—in the meaning of worry, concern,...
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