Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Rhineland. Region surrounding the Rhine River in western Germany. The Rhineland experienced heavy militarization in 1936 and severe destruction by Allied bombing during World War II. The novel’s time frame and settings are revealing in that they signify harsh living conditions and the political socioeconomic climate that affect Leni and those around her in a war-torn environment. Civilians must cut back on luxury and food items, and bombing raids are frequent during the war.

During the years of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, nationalism and political ideals are instilled in the German people at all levels, to such an extent that Leni’s school votes her the “most German” girl in the city, district, province, and perhaps even the whole country. Despite the honorary title, however, she is actually German only in her physical heritage and place of birth—nothing more.


Nursery. Business concern for which Leni works in the Rhineland. During the economic instability of wartime, Leni’s boss creatively sets up a place to sell wreaths to funerals. He and his workers efficiently make the business into a lucrative enterprise because of the war. Since people are dying everyday, floral wreaths are in demand. The business becomes even more lucrative, thanks to Leni’s ingenuity in recycling wreaths and ribbons to save production costs.

Leni also meets a Russian prisoner of war...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Experimenting with narrative perspective, Boll creates in Group Portrait with Lady an intriguing biographical study serving as a...

(The entire section is 160 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Group Portrait with Lady was Boll's most impressive fictional creation and clearly the largest in scope. Reminiscent of the expansive...

(The entire section is 155 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Butler, Michael, ed. The Narrative Fiction of Heinrich Böll: Social Conscience and Literary Achievement. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Analyzes Böll’s recurring themes of love, morality, economic pressures, and organized religion and his emphasis on renewal and utopianism. Discusses Leni’s influence on other characters and the role of the narrator.

Conrad, Robert C. Heinrich Böll. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Excellent introductory source. Provides a helpful chronological summary of the novel’s complex development and identifies key actions, ideas, and symbols.

Reid, J. H. Heinrich Böll: A German for His Time. Oxford, England: Berg Publishers, 1988. Provides informative biographical information and evaluates historical and literary influences on the writer. Discusses symbolism and defines the refusal to participate in evils of society as Böll’s central theme.

Vogt, Jochen. “Böll’s Utopia: Great Refusal, Small Pleasures.” In From the Greeks to the Greens: Images of the Simple Life, edited by Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. Examines historical and political influences on Böll’s themes and discusses the effects of materialism and capitalism on the common man. Traces these themes through earlier novels, finding a culmination in the character of Leni.

Zachau, Reinhard K. Heinrich Böll: Forty Years of Criticism. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1994. Discusses critical approaches to Böll’s work. Provides a clear overview of theme, characterization, and symbolism and evaluates Böll’s influence on subsequent German literature.