Monday, 26 May 2014

Spirits and Symbols

We look through a powerful lens.  Peering down we arrest the quick flow of the reading mind to see meanings invisible to the all too swift and commonsensical eye.  Adjusting the focus we enlarge the significance of a few small details until their corporeality dissolves onto a slide fluid with meaning and metaphor.  We see it all so clearly!  A good introduction is like a microscope.  To look at just a few scenes, to stare at one idea, to note some biographical or historical analysis, is to uncover a body of work dense in meaning and intention.  We start to lose ourselves in symbol and allegory… Resting our eyes we wonder at our ignorance.  Did we miss all that?  Of course we did.  Even the slowest reader isn't slow enough to really grasp the novel they are reading. They are thinking to fast to invent it.

Not that we must agree with the critic who brings us these new perspectives.  The best criticism should force us to think against it, clarifying the points of disagreement so that we develop our own insights and arguments.  To change the slide…  The best critics provide a spring board from which we dive into our own pool.

A significant amount of this introduction is concerned with political symbolism. It argues that Effi Briest represents a culture in decline; the Prussian aristocracy too rigid and too attached to an outmoded tradition to cope with the new Germany that emerged at the end of the 19th century.  For the author England was the model to which the country should aspire; its social system encouraging more natural modes of thought and action.  Although there is an unstated paradox which Helen Chambers notes but doesn't explore: England’s freedom was dependent upon its political stability, which was founded on its respect for tradition.  Even in the late Victorian period England was an old country.1

Victorian London was his first experience of a modern metropolis, and the seething centre of the Empire gave him a liberating sense of the wideness and diversity of the world, of infinite energy and possibilities, but at the same time he could see the power history and tradition in Britain,which unlike politically fragmented Germany with its scores of sovereign states had no identity problems and could devote itself wholeheartedly to the serious business of making money.

This argument destroys the main thesis, which I have criticised elsewhere.3  Not that it is entirely wrong, only it is too crude to explain Effi Briest, whose one of many concerns is with the problem of a modern identity which had become detached from the tradition that had created it.  Innstetten representing the small sovereign states who had lost touch with their local cultures when they were absorbed into the German empire.  Innstetten is the clever provincial who combines the narrow morality of his upbringing with the rigid mentality of the state official to produce a man who prefers the inflexibility of the law to the free play of his feelings; the demands of public life coming to replace the intimacies of the family home.  This bureaucratic mentality adding another layer of rigidity to a system of ideas already made overly conscious and artificial through being used by a new nation to will itself into existence; thus generating the inevitable intellectual insecurity and crisis.  Innstetten had to be rigid and rule bound.  He was forced to have a breakdown.  Bismarck's Germany required it.

Helen Chambers suggests that the central conflict in the novel is between social convention, culture in the very German sense of Bildung, and the naturalness of individual humanity.  True, but… there are nuances which such a binary division ignores; for as I have previously argued it is the incompletion of Bildung in both Innstetten and Effi that is the reason for their fall.4  They lack the cultivation to overcome their different temperaments and so achieve a matrimonial compromise. 

The difference in age is of course a dominating factor, although there are other causes which determine how these differences are realised in actuality.  And it is these causes, not Effi’s character, that explain her demise.  Here, perhaps, is my major disagreement with Professor Chambers. For rather than concentrating on the specific personalities, and then explaining how their behaviour is determined by large scale social forces,I believe we need to investigate the dynamic relationships between characters and their highly specific local environments to understand why they behave as they do; in this case we need to comprehend provincial Kessin and how this oddly matched couple live in it.  For it is this relationship - between location and personality - that explains Effi Briest.  

The most important causal factor is the moment in their respective life cycles when Innstetten and his young wife are married.  Innstetten is middle-aged and excessively subservient to his society’s manners and opinions. If anything he is older than his years.  The contrast with his wife is enormous.  Effi is still a child.  And a peculiar one at that, having been brought up in a relatively free home she has not imbibed the habits and conventions of good society.  She is wild and somewhat uncivilised.  She has the freshness of youth that needs the company of youth, and when it is denied her she wilts.  At her parents’ house she lived freely within her thoughts and her senses; she had love, and she still needs plenty of it.  Effi is a child who cannot live without play, acting and nonsense.  She has to perform.  She must use her imagination.  She needs people to understand her.  Intellectual and emotional sympathy are vital to her mental health.

Crampas understands this, and exploits it.  Thus his quotations from Heine, and his satire of Innstetten’s excessive attachment to the rules of state: “does everything have to be so fiendishly legal?” he mocks.  Innstetten’s reply is excellent, and characteristic:

‘Yes, Crampas, that’s your style and Effi, you can see, applauds you.  Naturally: women are always the first to call the police, but they won’t hear anything of the law.’

Effi is carried away by Crampas’ cleverness and is seduced by him.  But this is not a consciously willed action, and to suggest so (according to Professor Chambers it is “a symptom of her need to preserve some area of freedom and spontaneity”) is to compare her behaviour to that of Innstetten, who acts too purposively for his own good.  Effi Briest is young and romantic.  She has a weak will, is strongly attracted to what stimulates her senses; and is easily carried away by literary stories.  She needs a lover who responds to all that in kind.  Someone like Crampas, in fact.  Innstetten is the most unsuitable husband she could have married at her time of life.  He is a literalist and moralist who believes sentiment is weakness; he thus suppresses her soul, which can only find release in the fleeting visits of Trippelli, the charming company of Gieshübler, and the flirtations of Crampas.  Her social circle is too smallto compensate for the limitations of her husband.  You see?  It is Kessin that is the problem.  It destroys her spirit, by isolating her from the variety she needs to keep her vivacity alive.  In Kessin her life is dominated by her husband.  His presence so large that it squeezes out her free space.  She needs palaces and squares and the walks of the Tiergarten, where she will see many new things and meet lots of like-minded people. Only in such surroundings can she really enjoy herself.  It is unlikely she would have fallen for Crampas if they had lived in Berlin; there she would have found the love and sympathy she needed, especially from the other young women at court.

The sexes are closer in their youth; Innstetten was even inspired by poetry and art when he was a young man.  But he is too old now.  Even worse: in a rigidly stratified society the gender differences are exaggerated with age; a divide that is reinforced by the separation between home and business; the men working in an essentially masculine institutional culture, the women living in a mostly feminine one.  A tradition of older men marrying younger women then reinforces this arrangement, encouraging the ideas and values that go with it.7

Effi should have married a younger man. She is too young to quickly acclimatise to such a male-orientated world.  She hasn't been given enough time to mature in a purely feminine being; she remains the wild child, vulnerable to those like Crampas who break society’s rules.  Frau von Briest knows this:  

‘Whether we should perhaps have brought her up more strictly.  Us that is.  For Niemeyer is really useless, because he leaves everything open to doubt.  And then Briest, I’m sorry to have to say this… there were your constant risqué remarks… and finally, and this is what I reproach myself with, for I don’t want to seem blameless in the matter, I wonder if perhaps she wasn't too young.’

Freedom.  The capacity to doubt.  Socially risky talk.  Youth.   All these attributes, because they do not show the requisite respect, have the capacity to undermine conventional society.  Or at least the kind of society in which Innstetten is a master - the repressed morality of a nascent bourgeoisie. In contrast Effi has been educated into an older tradition that relies on a different set of values; she has been brought up to be the wife of a proper aristocrat not that of an official; certainly not one who lives in the provinces.  She needs a world more attuned to the senses, and she finds it amongst the aristocrats of Berlin, a place where, significantly, she can socialise with young women like herself, and be admired by men like her father.8    

When she marries Effi is still a child living in a child’s world, with all its freedoms, doubts and securities; and its acute perceptions - no wonder she is afraid of the Chinaman.  Although perhaps he is more a symbol than concrete fact: he is the ghost of her childhood she has lost too quickly.  

In a passage that resonates so much with this novel that we feel Fontane must have read it, Ruskin quotes Wordsworth…

She will find what is good for her; you cannot: for there is just this difference between the making of a girl’s character and a boy’s - you may chisel a boy into shape, as you would a rock, or hammer into it, if he be of a better kind, as you would a piece of bronze.  But you cannot hammer a girl into anything.  She grows as a flower does, - she will wither without sun; she will decay in her sheath, as a narcissus will, if you do not give her air enough; she may fall, and defile her head in dust, if you leave her without help at some moment of her life; but you cannot fetter her; she must take her own fair form and way, if she take any, and in mind as in body, must have always
‘Her household motions of light and free
And steps of virgin liberty.’ 
(from Sesame and Lilies in Selected Writings)

“Virgin liberty”.  Exactly!  Virginity, about which Professor Chambers has much to say, means something very different for a girl like Effi Briest.  For her it signifies freedom from the male gender; that is: freedom from its rules, its rigidities, its restraints and boring routines.  Childhood is a place of wonder and amusement, it is a time of wild talk and free play.  An early marriage an iron cage in a pretty meadow…

Helen Chambers also believes the ghost is a symbol.

Effi’s apprehension at her introduction to sexual relations is reflected by her unease at the strange, exotic creatures in the Kessin house: the stuffed shark and crocodile, and the Chinaman’s ghost which is associated with problematic sexual experience.

Clearly, Sigmund Freud is a good friend of the family… This reading could be correct, and certainly there is a strong sexual element to her dissatisfaction with Innstetten – his lack of tactility and domestic energy suggests he is not a sexually active man.  But… Doctor Freud suffered from an idée fixe that invented ailments rather than cures, and concocted myths which he believed were scientific truths.  Having turned sex into a metaphysical idea he then tried exorcise it through his psychoanalytic technique.9  Although what he actually did was to make “the disease” appear all-pervasive; for when an idea floats free from its experiential origins it can attach itself to everything and anything, even to a novel by Theodor Fontane.  We must be wary of sex in the head.

So let us go back to the original tale to see if we can come up with a more plausible explanation that will expunge the Freudian influence.  This is how Innstetten tells it.

‘Well, this Chinaman was the servant in Thomsen’s house, and Thomsen thought so highly of him that he was more of a friend that an servant.  And things went on like this for years.  Then suddenly it was rumoured that Thomsen’s granddaughter, who was called Nina, I think, was to marry according to the old man’s wishes, and it was to be another captain.  And this turned out to be so.  There was a big wedding in the house, the pastor from Berlin married them, and Utpatel the miller, who was a nonconformist, and Gieshübler, whom people in town didn’t fully trust when it came to religion, were invited, and above all many captains and their wives and daughters.  And as you can imagine spirits ran high.  In the evening there was dancing and the bride danced with everyone, with the Chinaman as well at the end.  Then suddenly the word went round that she had gone, the bride that is.  And she had indeed gone away somewhere or other, but nobody knows what happened.  And two weeks later the Chinaman died…’

What is wonderfully evocative about this story is its fuzziness - we can only surmise that Nina and the Chinaman were in love.  It therefore exudes a powerful symbolic resonance, especially for someone like Effi who lives in a half-world of romantic invention, and for whom the very idea of a Chinaman represents something “sinister”.10

More than anything else this story exists as a story, as a resonant fairy tale.11  The details - the refusal of married life, and the suggestion of lost love - are secondary to the story itself, although they do add to the overall effect of this immensely powerful parable, whose emotional affect is more important than any precise meaning it conveys.  A brilliant party followed by… a void, and a death.  The idea of marriage resonates with the atmosphere of loss; and it is this atmosphere that Effi feels, and which she may never actually put into words.  It is of course possible that the story represents her fears about sexual intercourse, although, as the references to the shark and the crocodile show, if you are drunk on Freud anything can represent Rabelais’ two-backed beast.12  Sober up!  Or let God damn us… 

After a very prolonged visit to the temperance hall we return and see… that the granddaughter, because she in love (with the Chinamen or someone else), preferred to flee the marriage bed rather than sully her romantic feelings by living in a loveless union.  It is clear.  This story represents a crisis of honour and spiritual purity, where the bride-to-be sacrifices society so as to secure her inner freedom; the acme of the good life according to Niemeyer, Effi’s first mentor.  Our faculties clean and sharp, they sparkle in this sober light, we now understand that for Effi the meaning of the story is obvious - it is an allegory on the loss of her free self, and the love she will never know.  No wonder the ghost will haunt her, particularly when she is alone.  He is looking for a lover neither of them will ever find…

This is the moment sex really enters Effi’s life.  An extra-marital affair is what happens when the soul is denied, as Professor Chambers recognises…

That Effi then seeks sexual experience with another, admittedly also older, but not previously celibate man, is presented less as the fulfilment of overwhelming unsatisfied sexual desire than as the need for natural warmth and freedom from the constraints of artificially acquired self-denial and rigour.

This is absolutely right; although I’m not sure that Effi “seeks sexual experience”; it is rather that Crampas thrusts it upon her.  However, Professor Chambers doesn't follow through to the logical conclusion: if Effi seeks “natural warmth” and freedom from artificial conventions (sex being merely the by-product of that search) then the symbolic connotations of the Chinaman should reflect those concerns and not those of her old friend Freud.

This story has little to do with sex.  Neither has the chinaman.  He is not a sexual symbol…  

He first appears when Innstetten is away on official business.  His appearance is associated with Effi’s loneliness and her unfamiliarity with Kessin and her husband's home.  Thus even before she sees the ghost Effi is full of unease; which is heightened when she reads the story about how the ‘White Lady’ frightened Napoleon; who later called the castle where he saw the apparition, “this maudit chateau”.  Significantly, this story is in a guide book (which she reads thinking to calm her nerves).  The associations seem obvious to me - a visitor, guest, a stranger…13  It is not sex that disturbs Effi.  No! It is the spirit of a strange and inhospitable place that frightens her; although she also recognises that these fears arise out of her own immature nature.

‘I’m a child and I’ll always remain one.  I once heard that was a good thing.  But I don’t know if it’s true.  One should always fit in wherever one finds oneself.’

But… she can’t fit in.  She will always been an alien in Kessin:

‘The Master mustn't know I’m afraid, he doesn't like it.  He always wants me to be brave and decisive, just like him.  But I can’t; I was always susceptible…  Of course I can see I’ll have to make an effort and do his bidding in this instance and indeed in everything…

To calm her fears Effi now talks to her maid.  In this conversation there is an undercurrent of sexual innuendo; Johanna crudely misinterpreting the innocent reminisces of her mistress to give them a licentious spin.

‘That’s true,’ laughed Effi, ‘I’ve found that too.  It has probably all got to do with something entirely different.  But blondes always have a fair complexion, as you do, Johanna, and I’ll bet you have plenty of suitors.  I’m very young but even I know that.  And then I have a friend who was blond, flaxen-haired really, blonder than you, she was a clergyman’s daughter…’ 
‘Oh yes…’ 
‘Johanna, what do you mean “Oh yes”.  It sounded rather suggestive and strange, you surely don’t have anything against clergyman’s daughters… She was a very pretty girl, that was what our officers all thought - we had officers, you see, red Hussars from Rathenow in fact - and she knew how to dress, black velvet bodice and a flower a rose or a heliotrope, and if she hadn't had such big, protuberant eyes… oh, you should have seen them, Johanna, at least as big as this’ (and Effi laughed as she pulled her right eyelid) ‘- but for that she would have been a real beauty.  She was called Hulda, Hulda Niemeyer, and we weren’t as close as all that, but if I had her here now and she was sitting there on the little corner sofa, I would chat with her till midnight or later.  I so long for…’ and at this she drew Johanna’s head close to her… ‘I’m afraid.’ 
‘Oh, it’ll pass, my lady, we’ve all felt it.’ 
‘You’ve all felt it?  What does that mean Johanna?’ 
‘…And if your ladyship is really so afraid, I can sleep here.  I’ll take the straw mat and turn a chair…

Effi is taken up by the details of the scene, its colours, its beauty and its incongruities.  It is her artist’s soul that is on show, and which longs for… fulfilment; pleasure; happiness; and all her old childish things and friends.  And her fears?  She is afraid.  Of this lonely house.  Of the ghost.  Of her own weak self.  Effi is afraid of being afraid.  Innstetten’s penis and her own orgasms have nothing to do with it.  At most sex appears here as a light stimulant; it is merely childish fun.  In contrast it is Johanna who is suffering from sexual ghosts; her innuendoes lost on Effi, who has only a vague idea of what she is talking about.  

It is not all metaphor.  The first appearance of the Chinaman is less a symbol than a real psychological effect caused by the first separation from a lover; a time when our perceptions are extremely acute, making us highly sensitive and nervous when they are not around.  

Other parts of the introduction, especially those which refer to the literary authorities, are less convincing.  To see symbols everywhere suggests academic monomania,14 particularly when they denote a relatively small number of ideas, usually of a political or sexual nature.  While to say the ending is “ironically undermining the apparent closure of the text” is nothing more than academic cliché.  We imagine a tired professor falling asleep over the keyboard, her fingers left to freely tap out the half-remembered phrases from the last graduate seminar… How I slumped when I read that!  Open-endedness, multiple meanings, irony… the mass-produced bric-a-brac endlessly recycled in today’s literature departments; charity shops of the mind.  

Effi Briest ends with two parents coming to terms with their daughter’s early and tragic death.  Both believe she went wrong, but neither understands why this was so.  The mother, the more curious and intelligent of the two, endlessly questions herself, trying to find a convincing answer.  Her husband would prefer ignorance; he wants the pain to fade away with time.  There is a conflict between them.  However, unlike that of Effi and Innstetten, it can be resolved within the conventions of their marriage: the husband may have the last word, and Frau von Briest will accept it, because she has already been allowed to speak her mind; she is free to utter uncomfortable truths, but knows they are of little use.

(Review: Effi Briest)


 1. There is a line of historiographical writing which argues that although England was the first industrial nation it remained a relatively backward country - from Eric Hobsbawm (Industry and Empire) to J.C.D Clarke (English Society 1660-1832) to David Marquand (The Unprincipled Society).

2. These differences between Germany and Britain may account for a widely held belief that the British are un-intellectual; an extremely bizarre notion if you actually look at the history of ideas.  Radhika Desai is a good and interesting example: 
“[That unlike other European countries Britain’s] Mid-Victorian cultural figures tended to be literary or scientific thus strictly speaking falling outside the sort of intellectual category necessary for a truly hegemonic politics.  Moreover, even as such they remained closely tied to the ruling class which was for the great majority their class of origin.  They did not, like traditional intellectuals, form a separate social category with an independent institutional structure of its own.”  (Intellectuals and Socialism the Labour Party; Social Democrats’ and the Labour Party
Thus figures like Coleridge are seen not as intellectuals but as establishment figures shoring up the prevailing culture.  Indeed, Desai argues that Coleridge’s criticism helped to “denature” the social reformism of Bentham.  Only when the Fabians come along did things change. Intellectuals, it seems, can only be left wing radicals…
This is far too narrow a view.  Much European intellectualism of the 19th century was a response to the instability of national identity and the increasingly fragile nature of the institutions of the state, as they sought to both control and survive the consequences of industrialisation.  
According to J.C.D. Clarke England between the Civil Wars and 1832 suffered a similar crisis, which was eventually resolved into the Whig settlement of Victoria’s reign.  
In the 19th century the terms of debate changed – liberalism, socialism, conservatism and nationalism were the main ideas about which people disagreed.  British intellectuals also employed these terms, but the country had already acquired a stable culture and had achieved a large measure of consensus on its institutional framework; they therefore lacked the critical edge of their European counterparts.  
Later in the century a new movement emerged – towards the national economy; a trend prevalent in all countries of that time.  Now the mid-Victorian hegemony began to very slowly breakdown.  Intellectuals critical of the prevailing consensus became more prominent, and often tied themselves to social movements that could further their ideas.  These are the traditional intellectuals of the European mould; although, tellingly, it leaves out those thinkers and writers who either support the status quo or who attack it from other side – the Right and the Far Right.  An ideological blind spot that until the rise of the New Right in the 1960s and 70s seems to have affected most liberals and left wingers.  Of course, by then certain sections of the elite were unhappy with the reigning social democratic culture and wished to transform it.  The high profile of these intellectuals was again due to their functional necessity – a changing mode of economic organisation, a move away from Fordism to Finance and from the national economy to globalisation, required people to attack the old system and celebrate (and codify) the new.



5. Always we have to make a distinction between the inner life of a person and how they behave within their local environment.  For most of the 20th century this rather obvious distinction was not made – Behaviourism, and its various guises (such as Marxism and Freudianism, which are behaviourist theories clothed in Byronic fancy dress), was the dominant intellectual trend, and it tended to concentrate on society’s influences, and assume they were the main factors in determining a person’s mental life.  
The work of Noam Chomsky is stellar because it re-established the distinction between our inner and outer lives; showing the overriding importance of the interior life to an individual’s thoughts.

6. This is cleverly echoed by Johanna:
“It’s so quiet here. You’re always glad when you see anyone you can exchange a few words with.  Christel is a good soul but she never talks, and Friedrich is so dim and so cautious too that he’ll never come out with anything.  Of course you have to know when to keep quiet, and Frau Paaschen is so nosy and so very common, actually not at all my type; but one is happy to see or hear anything.”
With a little imaginative work we can transpose Effi and Crampas for Johanna and Frau Paaschen (the latter cynical and licentious).

7. If we are looking for evidence to support the critical consensus that it is a worn-out culture that is to blame for Effi’s tragedy this could be it - Innstetten has followed tradition and married late and young.

8. See the Hegel quote in my The Dangers of Philosophy.  In Kessin Effi was denied the feminine environment to which she had become accustomed.  This appears to give some support to Helen Chambers’ view that Innstetten represents a strictly masculine society…
“The cult of honour, which derives from the military code, a male construct, is shown to lack moral foundation and be unequal to the dilemmas of real life in the social and domestic sphere, and indeed politically irrelevant too in the age of Bismarck’s Realpolitik, where pragmatism and opportunism have determined the very shape of the contemporary state.”
… although if we follow the logic of Hegel’s argument we would see that the problem isn’t a male constructed social code per se, but Innstetten’s insistence on bringing it into the house; it his refusal to separate the masculine public realm from the private feminine home that causes this tragedy.  And this is due not to an outmoded military code, which would surely recognise that war takes place on the battlefield, and that the code of honour applies to men only, but to a new kind of morality, the one we associate with the bureaucrats and the bourgeoisie of the 19th century (see my One Smile, It was an Earthquake).

9. The reason his theories are so appealing to intellectuals and academics.  This is because they reconcile two quite contradictory intellectual aspirations: they seem to offer a naturalistic cause for psychological phenomena, yet at the same time they turn this cause into a psychological concept. That is, Freud offers a view of the human mind that is resolutely mentalist, but this is disguised by his use of sex as a causal agent.  It is an enticing combination for intellectuals because they can believe that they are modern and scientific, while still thinking in the traditional way; using Freudian concepts as symbol and metaphor.  

10. One of the interesting aspects of this novel is how particularly Effi and Crampas use stories to comment on their own lives.  Although, crucially, these are recognised as stories and not as myths representing real truths. To a significant degree these stories are games the characters play both with themselves and each other, and may represent a new sensibility where literature exists in its own right, freed from its previous ties to religion and morality.  
Innstetten’s use of the Chinaman story to control his wife is viewed as especially insulting, and we could see it not only as an outmoded way of treating a story - as a moral tale - but also as a form of pollution: he has degraded the very idea of a literary fiction.

11.  The story is important to her as a story.  Crampas tells us why:
       ‘He’s [Heine] very much for the romantic, which comes close behind love and in some people’s view can’t be separated from it.  Not that I believe that…’
        Effi is a person who cannot separate love from romance. This worries her mother who criticises Effi’s infatuation with a Japanese screen: you are using it, she says, to a create a mistaken fantasy of your upcoming marriage.  She is right.  But Effi cannot change.  For her love must be fantastic!  And thus the inevitable disappointment that comes from marrying the prosaic Innstetten. 
Crampas, though a cynical user of literature, is able to rekindle Effi’s romanticism, and through it captures her love.  It is one of many examples in the novel where the ideas and feelings of the soul come before the characters’ bodily needs. 
In Effi’s marriage romance is denied, and her love dies.  Her marriage thus becomes a sort of half-death, and the romantic spirit of the Chinaman haunts her.  Of course this has much to do with the lack of a shared sensibility between the couple.  If Innstetten could have loved Effi properly her feelings would have gradually overcome her romantic fantasies, which would have adapted to the lower imaginative temperature of the married state; so that in all probability she would have grown up to be just like her mother.  
Although there is the suggestion that, because of both her character and upbringing, Effi is different from most girls, and that the romantic strain, being in her far stronger than usual, needs to be fully integrated into her personality.  Her marriage breaks that bond.   For Innstetten art (romance) exists separately from life, and he therefore devalues it.  The Chinaman thus escapes from the story and invades her life as a real being… He is the ghost of her vanquished soul, her lost romantic (aesthetic) self.

12.   And are they really sexual symbols?  They could represent Crampas – she could become the prey of this Don Juan - but… she hasn’t met him yet.  While… there is something particular about these creatures which resonates with the rest of Effi’s discomfort.  They are antiques whose incongruity and ugliness represent both in fact and in symbol a negation of her youthful freshness.  Also: there is something sinister about them precisely because they are stuffed animals.  Dead things made to look alive.  They are a different kind of ghost…of the old Prussian aristocracy; with its tradition of hunting and killing wild animals.  They are a symbol of a society that threatens her.  They are a warning as to what she may become.  
Contrast these dead animals with the two dogs in the book – the one in the Heine story who carries his master’s head to the sadistic king’s table, and Rollo who lies by Effi’s grave, and who her father regards as more affectionate than themselves.  These dogs are examples of domesticated love and fine feeling.  They are wildness tamed.  Here is what should have happened to Effi, but Innstetten lacked the skill to break her in. 

13.  … or the ghost of a dead wife?  During this scene Johanna talks to a neighbour about a previous mistress, who was something of a shrew.  We assume she is talking about another employer.  Although it raises the suspicion… was Innstetten previously married?

14.   To be fair Professor Chambers recognises this, writing about the “over-zealous scrutiny” of specialists who obsess on Fontane’s political position.  While I love this reading:
“Looking again at the rickety swing which at intervals in the novel allows Effi to experience danger and exhilaration, to fly in the air, we recognise it as a highly ironic symbol of the inadequacy of the spirited heroine’s wings of desire.”  Although “desire” is too loaded a term, with its unfortunate sexual undertones.

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