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The Fearful Education of Effi Briest

Robert L. Jamison
Monatshefte
Vol. 74, No. 1 (Spring, 1982), pp. 20-32
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30165277
Page Count: 13
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The Fearful Education of Effi Briest
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Abstract

Effi Briest is usually seen as a figure with unreconciled or even unreconcilable personality traits. The present reading attempts to establish a unity of character by identifying one tendency-an attraction to fear-and positing it as the core element of her character. Effi's attraction to fear manifests itself initially in her love of swinging, later in her fascination with the ghost of the Chinaman, and finally in her love-affair with Crampas. Crampas' letters are the last residue of her attraction, which she succeeds in suppressing during the Berlin years. Effi's situation is, however, unique in that those around her, including her husband, have been trying to "educate" her by creating the very thing to which she is drawn, fear. Fear becomes both the means and the end of social interaction, and Effi's death, through which she "transcends" her situation and society, becomes the only possibility she has of exchanging fear for hope.

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