Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Robert Clayton

Robert Clayton, an engineer and the industrialist director of the Vienna branch of the British firm of Clayton & Powers, Ltd. At the age of twenty-eight, in 1877, he marries Harriet. They honeymoon in the southeastern part of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the town of Slunj and the waterfalls of the Slunjcica River in this remote area of Croatia. After their return to England, Robert’s father informs them that he has arranged to open a branch factory of their agricultural machinery plant in Vienna to serve the southeastern provinces of the British empire. Robert, an efficient director, has a prosperous business established eighteen months later. Robert enjoys the social life of Vienna at the turn of the century after a respectful period of mourning following the death of his wife. He is an active, charming, and extroverted man who continues to bring success to his business and brings a host of people from various social circles into his home. Although he is thirty years older than his son, he is often mistakenly identified as a younger brother. Only a short while after he meets the vivacious Monica Bachler, then Donald’s lover, Robert decides to marry her.

Donald Clayton

Donald Clayton, Robert’s son, born in Vienna on May 10, 1878, exactly nine months after his parents visited the waterfalls of Slunj. He is sent to England when he is of school age to live with his grandfather, a typical Englishman who takes great interest in Donald’s education. Donald’s personality is the complete opposite of his father’s. He is incapable of responding to human emotions and actions and has a deathly fear of water in any form. When Monica Bachler tries to seduce him, he notices that it is raining outside and simply does not respond to her advances. At the age of thirty-two, while on an extended business trip, Donald decides that he should marry Monica, most likely because he thinks that a wife belongs in an orderly and well-appointed home. While in Slunj, a place his father has often praised for its beauty and vitality,...

(The entire section is 858 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In some ways, Doderer’s The Waterfalls of Slunj resembles the three-decker novels of the late nineteenth century. His leisurely prose, his use of long, descriptive passages flooded with color and imagery, and his cast of hundreds of characters who are intricately, almost mechanically, interrelated—these are the conventions of the Victorian novel. On several occasions, Doderer also uses the Victorian novelist’s habit of addressing the “gentle reader,” intruding upon the narrative with personal comments of affection or denigration regarding his characters and even explicitly banishing characters from the book. For example, after a minor character serves her purpose, Doderer writes:The moment has come when it has become possible for us to eject Frau Wewerka from our composition.... Grant it, O reader, to this thy entreating author! Grant him the exquisite delight of bestowing two positively whacking boxes on the ears, by means of which Frau Wewerka is catapulted out of this book and shot off to the horizon, where she bursts and scatters in disgusting spray.

On another occasion, Doderer ejects from his pages two redeemed prostitutes, Finy and Feverl, only to readmit them at a later time when the plot thickens.

A historian in his own right, Doderer purposely introduces a rich variety of characters in order to portray Vienna in its grand diversity. The range of his sympathies is wide, for most of his characters—engineers,...

(The entire section is 525 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bachem, Michael. Heimito von Doderer, 1981.

Haberl, Franz P. “Water Imagery in Doderer’s Novels,” in Books Abroad. XLII (Summer, 1968), pp. 348-353.

Hamburger, Michael. From Prophecy to Exorcism, 1965.

Hatfield, Henry. “The Human Tragicomedy: Doderer’s Die Wasserfalle von Slunj,” in Books Abroad. XLII (Summer, 1968), pp. 354-357.

Ivask, Ivar. “Heimito von Doderer: An Introduction,” in Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature. VIII (Autumn, 1967), pp. 528-547.

Swales, M.W. “The Narrator in the Novels of Heimito von Doderer,” in The Modern Language Review. LXI (January, 1966), pp. 85-95.