Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498
Horacker is one of the mature works on which Raabe’s reputation as a major German novelist of the nineteenth century rests. The novel falls within the period of German realism, sometimes referred to in German literary criticism as poetischen or burgerlichen Realismus, and is realistic in contrast to the more idealistic classicism and Romanticism. Horacker focuses on the daily life experienced by the protagonists in a transitional society following the Revolution of 1848, a period when the German bourgeoisie (Burgertum) was struggling vainly for more political rights. The book is regional only in the sense that it is firmly anchored to a specific geographical area, which Raabe knew well and portrayed with a sure touch.
The humorous, rambling style used by Raabe allows a comprehensive view of the society he describes. Plots are weakened—not much action occurs in Horacker—and suspense is diminished. Although many devices are used to delay the conclusion, all the elements are carefully woven into a well-orchestrated whole; for example, everyone arrives at the final scene in Gansewinckel at just the right moment. What appears to be merely purposeless digression contributes to the reader’s understanding of the attitudes of the people and of the village environment. The structure, which superficially appears so very rambling and uninterrelated, turns out to be very carefully constructed.
Raabe’s narrative technique became more complex as his work matured, probably reaching a high point in his masterpiece Stopfkuchen: Eine See-und Mordgeschichte (1891; Tubby Schaumann: A Tale of Murder and the High Seas, 1983). Various narrators bring their perspective to his later stories. This happens to a certain extent in Horacker; the narrator provides an overview, bringing the reader into the scene, while Eckerbusch and Windwebel, Ida, and the Wincklers contribute their views of “the Horacker Case.” This unconventional way of telling a story is directed to the perceptive reader. In Horacker, Raabe identifies this individual as the one in a thousand, who, watching a house being built, “will be given to quiet and somewhat melancholy meditation, who will ask of himself and fate: ‘What all do you suppose will happen in that new house?’” His style of writing demands participation and overturns the reader’s expectation that the narration will build suspense and finally produce satisfaction at the capture of a criminal. This destruction of expectations is a particularly modern feature of this nineteenth century novelist.
Throughout his works, Raabe focuses on the question of human development, the struggle between an individual’s dreams and the limiting effect of society. In Horacker, as in his other works, he considers the relationship between an individual and a society in transition. Horacker ends on a positive note, but with an individual solution to one problem that does not resolve the overall conflict of values. Later novels show more resignation and skepticism about man’s ability to understand or control history; Horacker represents the high point of Raabe’s vision of a more humane world established through the actions of single individuals.
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