Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Marianne, referred to as the Woman, a thirty-year-old translator of French and a suburban housewife in an unnamed West German city. She, her husband, Bruno, and their child live in a bungalow on a hill overlooking the city. Marianne is lonely, as are the other characters of the novel. In spite of that, she suggests to Bruno that he leave her after he has returned from a business trip. There appears to be no specific reason for her suggestion. Marianne translates from the French that the ideal man is someone who loves her for what she is and will become. The idea that her husband leave her comes to her as an “illumination.” Whether this separation is permanent is not known.


Bruno, a sales manager for a porcelain firm. He has brown eyes that can observe without being observed. After his return from a business trip to Finland, where he did not know the language and felt very lonely, he says to Marianne that he felt that they were bound to each other but that he could now exist without her. After spending the night in a nearby hotel where they had gone for dinner, Marianne tells him that he should go to live with Franziska. Bruno does so. After a fight with the actor at Marianne’s impromptu party, where Bruno accused the actor of wanting to be his wife’s lover, he and the actor play Ping-Pong together and are the last to leave the party. They leave together.



(The entire section is 593 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Handke’s characters are fairly conventional but extremely abstract and oddly presented in a detached and absolutely external manner. In fact, the novelist, who had previously written two film scripts for Wim Wenders—including the script adapted from his own novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (1970; The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, 1972)—first imagined his story as a motion picture and went on to direct a film version.

The novel, which differs in some particulars of setting and action from the film, was written as a challenge. As Handke has explained in his notes for the film production, “I wanted to try a kind of prose in which the thinking and feeling of the individual characters would never be described—in which, instead of ‘she was afraid,’ the reader would find; ‘she left,’ ‘she walked over to the window,’ ‘she lay down next to the child’s bed.’...—And I felt this form of limitation actually acted as a liberating force on my literary work.”

The reader senses the psychology behind the characters’ motivation, in spite of the generally dramatic framework, stripped of soliloquizing or internal monologues. At first the characters are simply described by function: the woman, the boy, the schoolteacher, the publisher, the actor, and so on. The woman’s name is not mentioned in the first quarter of the narrative. The publisher’s name is not given until the last quarter.

Despite this purposeful detachment, the characters are vividly delineated. Bruno, the husband, is very traditional in his understanding of his...

(The entire section is 660 words.)