Jakob Abs (YAH-kohp ahps), a calm and competent young man who seems to be at ease with himself. His demeanor shows a casualness that is genuine. He is respected by his coworkers. He also believes in socialism, which is the reason for the communist government’s interest in him; Rohlfs considers Jakob to represent the ideal of a worker in a socialist state. Although he has a kind of working relationship with Rohlfs, he is very much his own man, caught between two countries where he is not allowed to be himself. When he went to Jerichow at the end of World War II, Cresspahl’s daughter, Gesine, looked up to him as an older brother. He began an apprenticeship with the railroad and became a dispatcher for the state-owned East German railroad in Dresden, a position for which he needs security clearance. He visits Gesine in West Germany, and they become lovers. He decides to return to East Germany and has an accident the next morning. He is twenty-eight years old when he is struck by a train engine and dies.
Gesine Cresspahl (gay-ZEE-neh), a highly independent and self-sufficient woman. She is deeply in love with Jakob, who is five years older than she is. In contrast to Jakob and in spite of her independence, she does not appear rooted in her own being because she suffers from her isolation. Not only has she left the social environment in which she grew up, she also has left the social system of communism in East Germany for the capitalist social system of West Germany, where she works as a translator for...
(The entire section is 670 words.)