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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 571

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Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz

Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz, a talented poet of the German Storm and Stress movement. At the age of twenty-seven, Lenz is no longer able to write and has gone to the small town of Waldbach, hoping to ease his mental suffering, which verges on insanity. His alternating mood swings and strange behavior reveal a deeply troubled personality. Physically, Lenz is shy and blond, with a child’s face and generally unkempt clothes. As a writer, he opposes idealism and insists instead on a reality portrayed so that the reader responds emotionally. At the beginning of this prose fragment, Lenz is desperate to save himself from the abyss of madness. Amid the normal, everyday activities of the village and with the soothing company of Oberlin, he finds a certain amount of peace and is able to fit into society. His tenuous hold on sanity is soon upset by the thought that he might have to leave Waldbach, and he begins to show increasing symptoms of mental breakdown: He suffers tremendous guilt and a religious crisis; he uses self-inflicted pain to combat the cold, dead feeling inside; he creates strange pranks in his mind and makes horrible faces; he talks to himself constantly to dispel an intense loneliness; and finally, when his attacks begin to occur during the day as well as at night, he attempts suicide.

Johann Friedrich Oberlin

Johann Friedrich Oberlin, a Pietist pastor in the Alsatian town of Waldbach in Steinthal. Extremely well liked and trusted by the townspeople, Oberlin easily offers advice, prayer, consolation, and instruction. At the age of thirty-eight, he is married and quite comfortable and satisfied as a family man and pastor of a small town. Generous and compassionate, he willingly takes Lenz in and cares for him, without knowing about his situation. Such action corresponds to Oberlin’s view of God’s will, that he help the less fortunate. He also enjoys Lenz’s company and comes to care deeply about him. He exudes an inner peace and attempts to give Lenz a refuge. Because he becomes so important to Lenz, he precipitates a serious crisis when he supports Kaufmann’s opinion that Lenz should obey his father...

(The entire section contains 571 words.)

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