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This story considers the evolving, somewhat troubled psyche of a German youth, Sinclair, as he matures during the decade prior to WWI. The analysis of Sinclair's turmoil purportedly reflects the European or German moral malaise at the time.
As a prepubescent boy, Sinclair recognizes the realm of good and light, symbolized by his God fearing parents and innocent younger sisters, as separate from the realm of evil and dark, symbolized by Franz Kromer, an older, opportunist who extorts Sinclair into fibbing and petty thievery. Another older boy, Demian, rescues Sinclair from Kromer's clutches, and then sows a new perception of the light and dark realms with an inverted interpretation of the parable of Cain and Abel. Demian perceives the mark on Cain's forehead not as a curse, but as a badge of courage, character and power.
Tainted by his experience with Kromer, Sinclair cannot entirely reject Demian's heroic characterization of Cain, and Demian nurtures this upset of clarity, muddling Sinclair's once clear distinction between the realms of good and evil. Demian then plants the alternative perception that the individual must delve into the self to discover his peculiar fate and destiny, a unique purpose apart from the mundane consensus, the mores of the hoard. Hesse then projects Sinclair's turmoil into a characterization of, or perhaps a reflection of, the mass psyche of prewar Europe.
"Gertrude" is a story about desires. Kuhn's desires to have his leg back, to live without loneliness, even a desire to change fate itself. All of these desires become centered in Gertrude Imothor whom he befriends and falls in love with as Kuhn was slowly rising in prominence as a composer. While Kuhn works on his opera, his friends, Muoth and Gertrude, fall in love. Finding about the affair, Kuhn becomes devastated but was soon distracted by a telegram sent about his ailing father. His father's death brings Kuhn back to the advice that he gave him the past summer. With renewed vigor, he accepts his fate and even composes a prelude for Muoth and Gertrude's wedding. Kuhn's opera becomes a success while Muoth and Gertrude's marriage crumbles. Gertrude, Muoth and Kuhn's desires interweave and create the tragic results to which all of them learn from.
In the end, Kuhn learns from his experiences and even comes to accept his fate, as he relates in this passage:
"Fate was not kind, life was capricious and terrible, and there was no good or reason with nature. But there is good and reason in us, in human beings, with whom fortune plays, and we can be stronger than nature and fate, if only for a few hours. And we can draw close to one another in times of need, understand and love one another and live to comfort each other."
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Lehrbuch der Geburtshülfe, mit Einschluss der operativen Therapeutik, der übrigen Fortpflanzungs-Functionen der Frauen und der Puerperalprocesse
- Author: Braun, Carl Rudolf, Ritter von Fernwald, 1822-1891
- Genre: German
Bibliographical notes I. Abt. Physiologie und Dietik der Fortpflanzungsfunctionen im Weibe.--II. Abt. Pathologie und Therapie der weiblichen Fortpflanzungsfunctionen
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Reprinted from various periodicals Memoir. -- Memorial inscription in Trinity college chapel. -- Commemorative address, by J. W. Mackall. -- A Roman of greater Rome [Martiallis] -- An old love story [Propertius and Cynthia] -- The feast of Saturn. -- A tragi-comedy and a page of history [Andromache by Euripides] -- Love and law. -- A villa at Tivoli. -- "To follow the fisherman": a historical problem in Dante. -- Dante on the baptism of Statius. -- The birth of Virgil. -- The altar of mercy [Statius. Thebais] -- Aristophanes on Tennyson. -- The prose of Walter Scott. -- "Diana of the crossways ."