(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Frederick and Witold are two older men who visit the country estate of their friend Hippolytus S. They soon become obsessed with two young people, Karol and Henia, and scheme to bring them together as lovers. Frederick is the motivating force in this erotic plan, and Witold is his passive and somewhat distrustful ally. No precise reason is given for Frederick’s interference in the lives of others, except that he seems to derive his pleasure from manipulating others. He has no beliefs. He is an atheist who kneels in church only because that is the behavior required of him in that setting. He performs the act of kneeling so carefully that it looks as though he really is a believer. His actions are so correct that for the moment (Witold speculates) Frederick may actually believe in the act he is performing. Similarly, to Frederick, Karol and Henia, who are about the same age and who have grown up together, seem to be made for each other. Frederick and Witold regard Albert (Henia’s fiancee) as an older man who is not fit to have her.

Frederick and Witold conspire to contrive situations in which Karol and Henia are thrown together. Witold is somewhat surprised when he finds that Henia is no innocent and has had other men. Karol, too, is no innocent and shocks Witold when he lifts the skirt of an old woman. Nevertheless, Witold and Frederick are never shaken in their belief that Karol and Henia belong together, and the conspirators achieve their goal when...

(The entire section is 481 words.)