Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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

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....

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

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...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

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.