Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 192
Told through the voice of her close friend, this is the story of Christa T. It’s a mix of her friend’s memories and primary resources. To fill in the gaps the narrator uses diary entries, letters, and even Christa T.’s college thesis. It would appear that Christa lived an average and unsuspecting life. She survived the war and then went on to pursue love and education. She graduated and had multiple boyfriends. Eventually, she settled down and had children. However, her close friendship with the narrator brings us a closer look at her life. Christa was working hard to make a name for herself. She says that she wants to see “life in all its colors.” The narrator aims to respect Christa’s wishes by keeping the memory of her alive. However, in an examination of the complexity of human nature, even the narrator questions if she really knew Christa. The story is likely an allegory of totalitarianism and oppressive regimes. Christa was in a lifelong search for individuality and freedom. At every turn she was disappointed by what she found. She ultimately passed without having achieved her goals.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 834
The narrator, a schoolgirl, becomes fascinated with Christa T., who, while walking in the street one day with her classmates, suddenly makes a trumpet from a rolled-up newspaper and blows it. Such exhibitionism, without any apparent concern for approval, characterizes Christa T.’s elusive personality. A daring, independent tomboy, Christa T. seems a Sternkind kein Herrnkind, that is, a “star-child” with a special destiny but without any inherited, unearned social advantages. Her modest origins are underlined by her regional dialect, Plattdeutsch (“flatland German”), which has a simplified vocabulary and syntax (and heavy admixtures of Dutch and English). Speakers of standard High German consider the dialect a barbarous, primitive patois.
Christa T. and the narrator are separated for seven years by the evacuation of civilians fleeing the advancing Russian army in 1945 during the final year of World War II. Christa T. suffers a nervous breakdown. When she recovers, she decides to become a teacher. She writes compulsively throughout her life because she fears vanishing without a trace. Her posthumous papers are full of sketches for stories, and full of unfinished drafts. The young school principal from the next village loves her, but he is ultimately rejected by her. Christa T. loves children, but after three years of unvarying classroom routine, she decides to leave her family rather than succeed her father at his school.
As a university student at Leipzig in 1952, Christa T. reunites with the narrator but turns out to be a neglectful friend. Timid despite her bravado, and unmotivated, Christa T. drifts. She finds no value in her education. Her diaries and letters reveal her confused need for perfection, alternating with mild self-abasement. Günter, another student, loves her, but he is frustrated by her lack of commitment. She mistrusts propaganda that glorifies the new Socialist era, and she loves dead poets now forgotten. Her unrealistic expectations shape her attraction to the fickle, poetical Kostia, a fellow student. She completes a successful dissertation on Theodor Storm, a kindred spirit and “predominantly lyrical” author with a “nervous sensibility.” His “conflict between willing something and the inability to do it thrust him into a corner of life.”
Christa T. returns to teaching secondary school in Berlin but becomes discouraged with her students’ facile, cynical conformity to official Socialist doctrine. Her weary, cynical principal urges her to compromise to survive. Then a thuggish student, on a bet, bites off the head...
(The entire section contains 1026 words.)
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