Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 792
Dr. Werner Eckerbusch
Dr. Werner Eckerbusch (VEHR-nehr EH-kehr-bewsh), the vice principal of the local school. Werner is a cheerful, intelligent, and imaginative man, well past middle age, who has been the principal and a teacher in a small village for most of his life. He has not traveled much, having left the village and surrounding area of his birth only during the years in which he was a university student. Werner has a well-developed sense of humor, a serene character, and a great love for the telling of stories and anecdotes. During the mere ten hours in which the events narrated in the novel occur, Werner, along with his colleague and friend Victor Windwebel, hikes across the mountain to visit his longtime friend Christian Winckler, pastor of the neighboring village of Gansewinckel; participates in the recovery of the purported robber and murderer Horacker; and engages in much entertaining conversation. When it is suggested by the inhabitants of Gansewinckel that the captured Horacker should be placed in detention, Werner’s oratorical skill allows him to shame the villagers into recognizing some of their own failings and letting Billa, the pastor’s wife, care for the hungry and exhausted Horacker. Werner and his wife Ida, along with Christian and Billa Winckler, are magnanimous, open-minded, and unusual. Of the four, Werner is the most playful; he does not mind being the center of attention and succeeds in dazzling everyone with his ability to spin a good tale.
Ida Eckerbusch (EE-dah), his wife. Ida appears to be her husband’s equal, if not in style, then at least in content. Much of her married life consists of good-natured verbal sparring with her husband in which, in spite of the fact that she inaccurately quotes the Latin citations she hears from him, she perseveres. Ida’s self-confidence is particularly apparent during a coach ride to Gansewinckel. She insists that Neubauer accompany her and Hedwig Windwebel. She completely unnerves the somewhat snooty Neubauer with her irreverence and no-nonsense attitude. Not beyond staging intrigues herself, she insists on sneaking up on the unsuspecting Werner and company in the Gansewinckel parsonage and thus contributes to the good-natured atmosphere in which the case of Horacker is settled.
Victor Windwebel (VIHND-veh-behl), the drawing master. Victor is a youngish drawing teacher and colleague and friend of Werner. He has traveled widely but now has found employment in the small provincial school where Werner feels so much at home. Victor regards Horacker as a romantic and fascinating subject for his drawing board but is his primary pursuer after he and Werner discover the young man in the forest. As a good friend of Werner, Victor promises to benefit from the former’s attitude toward life.
Hedwig Windwebel (HEHD-vihg), Victor’s wife. Hedwig is quite young and is expecting a child. She is pleasant but emotional and prey to the stories and rumors circulating in the villages, such as the rumor that Horacker has slain Werner and her husband. Ida regards her as a good friend and looks after her.
Neubauer (NOY-bow-ehr), the assistant master at the school. Neubauer is a young man who feels superior to his older colleagues and the villagers. He considers himself to be a poet and regards his assignment to the provincial school beneath his dignity. He can be charming, if he wishes, and occasionally appreciates village life.
Christian Winckler (VIHNK-lehr), the pastor of Gansewinckel. Christian has common sense and understands the foibles of his parishioners. His favorite pastime is reading the eighteenth century German author Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, whose moralistic and pleasant tales give him consolation.
Billa Winckler, Christian’s wife. As the wife of the village pastor, the resolute and down-to-earth Billa is an excellent helpmate for her husband. She and Christian are childless and rear the orphaned and impoverished Lottchen Achterhang.
Cord Horacker (HOH-rak-uhr), a young man who escaped from reform school. Horacker is nineteen years old and was sent to reform school because of a number of youthful pranks, the worst of which was stealing a pot of lard. He escapes when he is told erroneously that Lottchen Achterhang no longer loves him, and rumor transforms him into a cunning thief and ruthless murderer. In reality, he is hungry, tattered, and frightened, only too willing to be helped when Werner and Victor find him.
Lottchen Achterhang (LOT-khehn AHKH-tehr-hang), Horacker’s girlfriend. Lottchen leaves her place of employment many miles away from Gansewinckel and returns there on foot when she is told that Horacker has run away from the reform school. She arrives at the parsonage dirty and exhausted but revives after being helped by Billa, particularly after Horacker is found.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 581
Eckerbusch is introduced in the first sentences of the novel as a creature like the kiwi of New Zealand, who “should be stuffed and revered as a species that one shall never again encounter.” The narrator emphasizes that Eckerbusch is the last vice principal (Konrektor), since this position is being abolished. While these words have a humorous effect, they are not intended to mock the vice principal, except insofar as Wilhelm Raabe always gently mocks the absurdities of human beings. In this case, Raabe’s ironic tone carries with it a very serious note: Eckerbusch is the representative of a type of humane individual who is gradually disappearing in favor of a new breed of men like Neubauer.
Eckerbusch is a product of his local village environment, beyond which he “never ventured, with the exception of three years spent at the university.” He is a compassionate man, concerned about his students and others, but he is considered something of an odd character and often laughed at for his eccentricities. Raabe’s portrait of him as a man “respected in the community as an authority on matters of weather” is gently humorous. Eckerbusch is a good-humored old man who does not seem to worry about upholding the image of a dignified vice principal.
Winckler also is a compassionate man, whose sympathy immediately goes out to Lottchen and Horacker. He is an old-fashioned pastor with “both the body and the spirit for the task” and is an admirer of the moralizing fables of Christian Furchtegott Gellert. Outwardly, Winckler seems to be a rural pastor in an idyllic setting, but the undercurrents in the parish show this image to be an illusion. When there is need, he and his wife, having no children of their own, easily “adopt the cause of strangers,” and they dedicate their lives to ministering to the Gansewinckel farmers.
Ida Eckerbusch and Billa Winckler are both strong-minded partners to their husbands. Realistic, sensible women, they know how to deal with others. Raabe’s portrait of them is gently humorous and admiring. Memorable scenes occur when Billa deals firmly with the parishioners on the question of the quarter-money and when Ida lectures an unwilling Neubauer.
Windwebel is a younger man, under Eckerbusch’s protective wing, with the same compassion and other humane qualities characteristic of both Eckerbusch and Winckler. The younger man takes genuine pleasure in his association with Eckerbusch and, when faced with Horacker’s troubles, shows an immediate empathy based on his own struggles to succeed in a hostile world. Windwebel’s handling of Horacker’s return wins for him new respect from Eckerbusch.
In contrast to these men and women of the two villages, Neubauer represents the man of the future. He is a very serious young philologist who has recently been transferred from the city to the province, and he considers Windwebel “shallow” and “insignificant.” Neubauer is a pedantic scholar, characterized by “the awful gravity of his character and views on life.” When forced to accompany Ida and Hedwig to Gansewinckel, he shows no sympathy for their concern but worries instead about whether he looks ridiculous. Concerns about his image and dignity and a detached approach to the problems of others distinguish him as much as humane action based on real sympathy distinguishes the Eckerbusches and Wincklers. The two contrasting ways of dealing with life revolve around the decision to become personally involved or to keep all contact with poverty and troubled individuals on an impersonal level.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 45
Daemmrich, Horst S. Wilhelm Raabe, 1981.
Fairley, Barker. Wilhelm Raabe: An Introduction to His Novels, 1961.
Helmers, Hermann. Wilhelm Raabe, 1968.
Pascal, Roy. “Wilhelm Raabe (1831-1910),” in The German Novel: Studies, 1956.
Stern, J.P. “Wilhelm Raabe: Home and Abroad,” in Idylls and Realities: Studies in Nineteenth-century German Literature, 1976.
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