Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Frank Friedmaier

Frank Friedmaier, an idler, robber, and killer. The son of a former prostitute (now a madam) and of an unknown father, Friedmaier is short and boyish. He is nineteen years old when the story begins. His outward lack of emotion, disconcerting to others and terrifying to his mother, conceals an intense desire to find a stable place in the chaos of Nazi-occupied Europe. Although he craves attention, he despises those who demonstrate affection for him. He bullies his mother, who fears him, even while he lives off of her earnings; he is contemptuous of the source of his money, of his mother’s pliable morality, and of himself for taking advantage of both. He kills a woman who had befriended him in his childhood; he assaults Sissy Holst, who adores him; and he loathes the prostitutes who satisfy his physical needs. Imitating his wealthy and obviously criminal friend, Fred Kromer, Friedmaier decides on murder as a method of self-assertion. Even as he kills, he realizes that what he is really trying to do is attract the attention of his respectable neighbor, Gerhardt Holst, who is, for Friedmaier, a father figure. In prison, Friedmaier finally finds the structured life he craves. When Holst and Sissy visit him, the former treats him with paternal affection despite his abuse of Sissy, and Sissy, despite his cruel tests of her, asserts her lasting love. Now fulfilled, Friedmaier is ready to die; he confesses his two murders and is shot.

Lotte Friedmaier

Lotte Friedmaier, Frank’s mother, a former prostitute, now a madam. A blowsy, reddish-blonde, overweight woman with a youthful face, Lotte runs a manicure parlor on the third floor of a boardinghouse; it actually is a brothel. She hires young girls, trains them...

(The entire section is 723 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

To Georges Simenon, the character of Frank Friedmaier is not representative of an ultimately guilty man, bent on self-destruction, but of a victim. Deprived during his childhood, never having known his father, farmed out to strangers, Frank appears at the beginning of the novel to be completely amoral, contemptuous of everyone; he hates both the world and himself. He kills without remorse. Yet even before his arrest, incarceration, and interrogation, there are signs of better emotions. He displays some semblance of compassion: He is concerned about Sissy’s physical well-being after her escape from the clutches of Kromer; he gives money to an acquaintance to pay for his sister’s eye operation; and he genuinely craves understanding from Holst, whom he regards as a father substitute.

The other characters in The Snow Was Black are not as well drawn. They are shadowy figures in a bleak landscape. Until the end, Holst is inscrutable. He lives next door, taking care of his daughter, keeping his own counsel;although he witnessed the murder of the German officer and knows that the young man who is taken into custody is innocent, and although Sissy has been attacked through Frank’s connivance, Holst does not inform the authorities. In the novel, he plays the role of the father who absolves Frank of his sins. By visiting him in prison, by placing his hand on Frank’s shoulder, “exactly as Frank always thought a father would do,” Holst brings...

(The entire section is 408 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Becker, Lucille F. Georges Simenon, 1977.

Bresler, Fenton S. The Mystery of Georges Simenon: A Biography, 1983.

Raymond, John. Simenon in Court, 1968.

Rolo, Charles J. “Simenon and Spillane: The Metaphysics of Murder for the Millions,” in New World Writing, 1952.

Simenon, Georges. Intimate Memoirs: Including Marie-Joe’s Book, 1984.