Style and Technique
The principal characteristic of Mann’s style in this story is irony. The story about the professor’s dedication to the past and his conflicting emotions about the younger generation’s ways is told in the present tense; in addition to giving the narrative dramatic immediacy, the use of the present tense highlights the underlying theme. Mann’s distinctive use of telling details is particularly evident here; even minor characters such as the good-for-nothing young manservant and the blue-faced nurse spring to life in a few sentences. The professorial protagonist is characteristically thoughtful, serious, courteous, and restrained; his feelings are merely suggested or briefly mentioned, while his thoughts are expressed clearly and forcefully. Thus, Mann avoids bitterness, contempt, or sentimentality. In the end, the effect of this restrained and controlled style is deeply moving.