Because Grove is strongly theme-oriented, his characters tend to function more as types than as individuals. At its best, a type can rise to the level of individualization; at its worst, it descends to stereotype.
Niels Lindstedt comes close to engaging the reader’s sympathetic identification, mainly because Grove endeavors to present him as an archetype. Niels has the incorruptible dream of Everyman, from Homer’s Odysseus to Steinbeck’s Lennie and Fitzgerald’s Gatsby: The dream of a place called Home where one is anchored, secure, content, at peace, and loved.
All the main characters are connected to that dream to a greater or lesser degree. To Niels, Ellen is the embodiment of his vision and thus functions as symbol of his ideal. Her very aloofness attracts him initially and intensifies his pursuit of the “impossible dream.” Yet Ellen, though remaining the ideal, explodes the dream as impossible. Grove uses Clara Vogel as Ellen’s opposite: not the embodiment but the destroyer of the dream. She too functions as symbol and remains mostly on the level of the stereotypical wanton who needs sex to fill an emotional void. In contrast to Ellen’s unadorned but genuine femininity and humanity, Clara’s lavish makeup and aggressive carnality serve death in Grove’s design, for underneath her mask is the face of a corpse. That is what she soon becomes, fit punishment for destroying the dream. Though she is a pathetic figure, her use...
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