Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Horacker is constructed around a deceptive idyll. The outward appearance of a gentle and charming life in the small town of Gansewinckel and the atmosphere of a late summer afternoon hide the undercurrent of “chaos, absurdity, and stupidity of this world.” In this contrast lies a recognition of the conflict between reality and ideals, the conflict between selfish individual interests and concern for the community.

Social criticism surfaces in the petty argument by the local farmers over quarter-money, a small sum of money which the schoolmaster and pastor traditionally earned by making a personal visit to every head of family in the parish on New Year’s Day; this custom has not been followed for more than a century, and the farmers now wish to reinstate it. More seriously, a criticism of the cruelty with which outcast individuals are treated by the community is illustrated by the central story of Horacker and Lottchen. The villagers look at suffering with the same detachment as Neubauer, or sometimes even with malicious enjoyment. The suffering of people such as Horacker and Lottchen is a reminder that not all is idyllic in the community, that the community has failed at least some of its members.

The value of the humane individual is upheld in such characters as Eckerbusch, who disperses the crowd gathered outside the parsonage by refusing to accept its judgment, relying instead on his own. He stands for that small circle of...

(The entire section is 466 words.)