The Walk Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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One morning, the narrator, a writer, leaves the melancholy confines of his room to take a walk. Pleased with his suddenly “romantic and adventurous frame of mind,” he rejoices at the beauty, freshness, and goodness of the day.

His first encounter on the street is with Professor Meili, a famous scholar with a forbidding, yet sympathetic figure. Various other people catch his attention: a priest, a chemist on a bicycle, a junk dealer, an army doctor, children at play, two elegant women in short skirts, and two men in straw hats.

Pretending to be a fussy connoisseur of books, he visits a book shop and asks in well-chosen words what is the most widely read and popular book of the day. When the book dealer returns with the treasured book in his hands, the writer, whose books do not enjoy such success, coldly leaves the shop with barely a thank-you.

Entering the next bank that he comes on, he is pleasantly surprised to find that several anonymous benefactresses have credited his account with one thousand francs. The bank clerk notes the smile of the poor, disregarded writer, who rejoices in the unexpected gift as he continues his walk. In an aside, he calls attention to a luncheon date he has at one o’clock with Frau Aebi. He passes a bakery and is disturbed by its flamboyant gold lettering, which he sees as a symptom of contemporary egotism, ostentation, and fraudulence, where everything is allowed to appear to be more than it really is. Gone is the modesty of the baker who merely baked an honest loaf of bread.

At the sight of a busy foundry, he is at first ashamed of the fact that he is not working but is only out for a stroll. However, in his bright yellow English suit he feels like a lord in his park, even though the country road is dotted with factories and simple houses and there is nothing really parklike about it. Two children who are playing in the street enchant him for a moment before a loud, rushing automobile disturbs their idyllic game. He looks angrily at the car’s occupants, for he loves quiet and the moderate pace of walking and abhors the unnatural haste and pollution of the automobile.

He asks his readers for their indulgence as he announces in advance two significant figures on his walk, a supposed former actress and an alleged budding singer. The first woman turns out not to have been an actress after all, but as she responds pleasantly enough to his rather forward questions, he proceeds to tell her that when he arrived in the area not long ago, he was at odds with himself and the world. Slowly he overcame his hopelessness and anxiety and underwent a rebirth, so that now he is quite happy and receptive to the good around him.

After paying his respects to her, the writer once again sets out on his way. A charming milliner’s shop elicits a shout of joy from him. He finds its rural setting so attractive that he promises to himself to write a play entitled “The Walk,” in which it will appear. A nearby butcher shop similarly enraptures him, but he is too easily distracted and needs to reorient himself and regroup his forces, like a field marshal trying to gain an overview of circumstances and contingencies. Parenthetically, he adds that he is writing all of his elegant sentences with an imperial court pen, which gives them their brevity, poignancy, and sharpness.

Continuing his stroll past vegetable and flower gardens, orchards, wheat fields, meadows, streams, and all manner of other pleasant things, he is suddenly confronted by a particularly unpleasant and sinister being—the giant Tomzack, whose terrible appearance disperses all of the writer’s happy thoughts and imaginings. The writer knows him well, this half-dead phantom superman without home, love, fortune, friends, or country. Without looking back, the writer enters a fir forest, whose quiet, fairy-tale interior gives him back his joy and sense of well-being.

When he leaves the forest, he hears the voice of the singer, a young schoolgirl with a...

(The entire section is 1,377 words.)