Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The novel is structured as a reminiscence narrative by Edward about his visit to his hometown and his boyhood friend. The narrative technique is clearly designed to diffuse any suspense. Schaumann’s story is told with digressions and various interruptions which slow the plot and give the reader a chance to absorb Schaumann’s way of looking at life. Although Edward is the narrator, the reader actually hears the story mainly in Schaumann’s words as he tells it to Edward. Other points of view, such as Edward’s and Valentina’s, and comments from Edward’s fellow passengers (not related to the main story), are included in the text. All the central action takes place in the consciousness of the characters.

The theme of disillusionment is an integral part of the story. Edward’s view of his hometown and the world that it represents is significantly altered by the time the day has ended. His idealization of Storzer ends with the man’s death and the realization of the burden of Kienbaum’s murder that Storzer carried with him. The interconnected story lines of individuals—Storzer, Edward, Quakatz, and Valentina—overlap and become part of one larger picture, which Schaumann has experienced and now relates to Edward. The full picture gives him a view of the world, which is the focus of the novel, rather than the story of any specific event, such as the murder.

Time in its various levels underlines this complete view of the world. The time of the narrative is the thirty-day period on board ship during which Edward writes the story. The story itself...

(The entire section is 645 words.)