Horacker is a story told by an outside narrator, who leads the reader into the setting of the novel, descending from the area’s highest mountain down into the hills, forest, and meadows. The reader first encounters Dr. Werner Eckerbusch, vice principal of the local school and the last of a dying breed, and is thus introduced to the rhythms of village life, where the most important thing for the inhabitants is the spate of rumors about Cord Horacker: “Horacker was rampant in the land.”
In this setting, Eckerbusch and Victor Windwebel, the drawing master, spend their last day of vacation before school starts again, hiking to the neighboring village of Gansewinckel to visit their friend, Pastor Christian Winckler. In the forest, the schoolmasters encounter Horacker’s mother and finally Horacker himself. Up to this moment, the reader knows only the horrible rumors. Reality is restored as a young man of nineteen—“trembling, emaciated, ragged”—emerges from the forest with his suffering mother. The reader learns that Horacker grew up in abject poverty and was constantly harassed by the villagers. When he was driven to stealing and pranks, the authorities sent him to a reformatory—where he was learning to be a tailor—from which he escaped only after being told that Lottchen Achterhang, the girl he loves, would not wait for him.
Meanwhile, Lottchen, an orphan reared by the Wincklers, has been caught stealing carrots. She...
(The entire section is 502 words.)