Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320

The protagonist of Theodor Fontane’s tragic realist novel is the title character, Effi Briest. With little preparation, she enters an arranged marriage with Baron von Innstetten. The imaginative, romantic girl is then sixteen, and he is not only her parents’ age but a former suitor of her mother. She has grown up with her parents on their estate, Hohen-Cremmen, in northeastern Germany. The novel traces Effi’s role in this ill-matched couple and her general decline through disgrace and divorce, ending with her death. Along with her unhappiness with her aloof, inattentive husband, Effie suffers because she paid inadequate attention to social norms; while living in Kessin, already a married woman, she became friends and spent time alone with Major von Crampas. The appearance of impropriety leads her husband to rash actions. Effi and the baron have one child, Annie.

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The Baron von Innstetten, Effi’s husband, is obsessed with correctly observing the rules of conventional society. After their marriage, he accepts a post in Kessin, a port town on the Baltic Sea, and later is transferred to Berlin. When he believes that Major von Crampas tried to seduce his wife, he kills him in a duel. He strongly contributes to Effi’s decline by divorcing her and taking Annie, who becomes loyal to her father and distant from her mother.

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Latest answer posted February 24, 2015, 12:36 am (UTC)

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Major von Crampas becomes friends first with the Innstettens in Kessin and then tries to initiate a sexual relationship with Effi. When she meets him, he is single but reputedly has had several affairs, but she ignores his reputation. His carefree, charming manner is a marked contrast to the stiffly formal Innstetten, who kills Crampas is a duel.

Roswitha becomes Effi’s maid while they are living in the Baltic town. After she becomes a loyal confidant, she moves with the family to Berlin.

Hertha is Effi’s childhood friend, from whom she must part when she marries.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 220

Effi von Briest

Effi von Briest (fon breest), only child of Ritterschaftsrat von Briest and his wife. Married at sixteen to Baron von Innstetten, she goes with her husband to a small town on the Baltic Sea. Bored and depressed by the formal stiffness of her new home, she is attracted to Major von Crampas. With this relationship a burden on her conscience, she is happy to move to Berlin, her husband’s new post. There old letters from von Crampas come to light. She is divorced by her husband, socially ostracized, and dies at her parents’ home believing that her husband, in divorcing her, has done the right thing for his honor.

Baron von Innstetten

Baron von Innstetten (fon IHN-shteht-tehn), Effi’s formal, disciplined husband. Discovering a packet of love letters written six years before by Major von Crampas to Effi, he avenges his honor by killing von Crampas in a duel and divorcing his wife.

Major von Crampas

Major von Crampas (fon KRAHM-pahs), Effi’s carefree, witty admirer, who is killed in a duel by Baron von Innstetten.

Annie von Innstetten

Annie von Innstetten, the daughter of Baron von Innstetten and Effi.

Roswitha

Roswitha (rohz-VEE-tah), Effi’s maid and faithful friend.

Ritterschaftsrat von Briest

Ritterschaftsrat von Briest (RIH-tehr-shahfts) and

Frau von Briest

Frau von Briest, Effi’s parents.

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