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German Womens History

            Effi Briest, a novel by Theodor Fontane, is the poignant story of Effi, a young woman whose restricted interactions with society and the moral attitudes of that society are brought into direct and terrible conflict. Fontane gives an all too realistic portrayal of late 19th century morality and the lives of minor German aristocrats. The novel relates Effi's "agonizing and unavailing struggle against the massive forces of Prussian moral rectitude" . .
             Effi Briest is a reflection of the late 19th century German middle-class. The social setting of Effi Briest expresses a time and a place that is unique and specific to German history. Innstetten and Effi represent typical products of their environment. The Prussian way of life, its government, and its military were still dominant in Germany, and bourgeois individualism, which the Briests represented, had come into being. Innstetten and his middle-aged and elderly friends represent the rural Prussian aristocracy, which sticks together regardless of internal differences, an antiquated society attempting to hold on with all its might. The industrial revolution and political unification transformed Germany to a nation that celebrated technology and material possessions. For instance, after her marriage to Innstetten, Effi is very concerned with her material possessions. She desires great things and is very ambitious. While preparing for her marriage and honeymoon, she asks her mother to purchase for her a fur coat, as well as a Japanese screen and other expensive items . The railway and various steam-power technologies also came to represent the spirit of progress rampant throughout Germany in the 1870's. Trains connecting towns mesmerized people throughout the nation, and the opening of new bridges captivated the gathered crowds. The railways and steam engine were symbols of modernity that most Germans took great pride in . Gardens and museums were to serve as a means of improving the overall well being of the cities, as well as to expel the less accepted forms of entertainment.

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