The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Problematische Naturen

Edition of 1920. See also Problematische Naturen on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

PROBLEMATISCHE NATUREN (‘Problematical Natures’). Like Freytag and Paul Heyse, Friedrich Spielhagen was chiefly concerned, in his novels, with defining the warring elements of German character and the opposing springs of German action in the period before and after the revolution of 1848. Like Freytag and Heyse, Spielhagen saw clearly the dangers that threatened the country, politically, religiously and morally from a reactionary aristocracy; like Heyse and unlike Freytag he saw the hope of the nation in the spread of an enlightened democracy rather than in a spiritual renascence of the ruling classes. Oswald Stein, the hero of his most famous novel, ‘Problematische Naturen,’ is the mouthpiece for Spielhagen's revolutionary social theories. He is modelled after those characters of whom Goethe wrote “There are problematical natures that do not fit into any situation and who remain always unsatisfied. For them there arises a terrible conflict that consumes life without enjoyment.” For Spielhagen the conflict itself, even though it ends in defeat, is victory; the mere struggle against the domination of dead ideas is progress. For such a philosophy there could be no better historical background than the Germany of 1848 and after, and ‘Problematische Naturen’ with its sequel ‘Durch Nacht zum Licht,’ although it squanders material for half a dozen novels, idealizes Teutonic morbidity, and forsakes art for tendency, tells with remarkable vividness, the story of the men and women who lived and thought and fought for freedom in Germany's day of hope. A notable description of the literature of this period is to be found in Julian Schmidt's ‘Geschichte der Deutschen Literatur.’