Inhumanityof patriarchal social structures in the OnTangled Pathsand NoWay Back
OnTangled PathsandNo Way Backare two captivating novels by Theodor Fontane. Although there is anenormous difference between the two novels, the most important issueis the basic platform that unites them that the patriarchal socialstructures are inhuman. Inessence, patriarchy is the social norm whereby male dominancecharacterizes the society. Under such a structure, the male membersof the community, such as the fathers, sons and husbands, take anupper hand in the determination of the day to day decisions.Automatically, the position of the woman is relegated to beingsecondary, or rather, subordinate.Fontane was a German novelist and his works portrayed great realisttraditions of the 19th century, such as patriarchy. To start with, OnTangledPathpresents a wistful and tender love affair. The author chronicled theprofound but brief love affair between a working-class girl known asLene and an aristocratic officer known as Botho (Parvey 2010). Leneused to live with Frau Nimptsch, her foster mother, close to FaruDoerr who was a friend of Botho. The reason why this love was doomedis because Botho succumbed to pressures from family members and heagreed to marry a beautiful, but superficial girl called Kaethe.
Leneended up marrying a serious minded and upright man called Gideon whoworked as a foreman in a local factory. Fundamentally, OnTangled Pathscan be described as an unequivocal novel which describes the lives ofwomen living in a patriarchal society that only adores masculinity.Underthis system, the women’s position is always inferior to that of themen. This imbalance often facilitates an order whereby the womenstruggle for their recognition both in the public and the privatespheres. One of the dangers of this social norm is that the men cantake the women for granted, given the power that patriarchy givesthem. One of the direst consequences is women’s hearts being brokenbecause of selfish independent decision by their husbands. Forinstance, the men can easily break their institution of marriagewithout even minding the impact it will have on their partners(Parvey 2010). On the other hand, NoWay Backcan be described as a tragic novel that at times bears an atmosphericof urgency of a folk tale. Essentially, the novel recounts thedisintegration of marriage between Holk and Christine. Holk was aneasy-going and charming man while his wife Christine was deeplyreligious and a serious woman.
Holk,who was based in a Danish court, decided to have an affair with alady-in-waiting known as Ebba. This reached to a level where Holkdecided to separate from his upright wife so that he can be withEbba. However, after Holk sought for separation from Christine, hewas rejected by Ebba. After one and a half years, Holk decided toreunite with Christine. Nevertheless, Christine decided that theclock cannot be turned back and she therefore ended up committingsuicide (Fontane, Rorrison, and Chambers 2013). From this episode, itcan be seen how a patriarchal society that adores men ends updestroying lives and the livelihood of the society. Theinstitution of marriage, mainly in the historical and culturalsetting of the novel, was subject to endless problems owing to thefact that the men could treat their partners recklessly. While theremay be no assurance that the women would have performed any betterwere they to have the same power, an underlying factor is that givingpower to one partner endangers the institution of marriage. Asearlier identified, patriarchal society expects women to besubmissive to men who are always considered as leaders and decisionmakers. However, poor judgment on the part of men ends up destroyingthe society and that is the reason why the two novels depict theinhumanity of the patriarchal social structures.
Irrespectiveof the differences between the two novels, it is evident that bothbooks have a masterly in the way they handle conversations. In bothnovels, the narrative voice is un-judgmental, implying that itdescribes the true character between men and women. It can be seenthat men are unable to cope up with the role that they are expectedto play in the society. Thenovels demonstrate the imbalance in relationships, which isfacilitated by the norms of patriarchy. While the women are supposedto be equal partners in the relationship, also in marriage, theirpositions are relegated to being the “helpers” of man. This way,the men take over full responsibility of driving the relationship,which is often disastrous.Their families suffer when men make poor decisions, particularly whenit comes to having affairs, or deciding to remarry due to pressure offamily members (Fontane et al 2013). One of the wrong perceptions ofthe patriarchal society is that the men believe that they should onlymarry people of their own class. This is a simplistic and weakthought that ends up dividing the society based on income and wealth.Moreover, it sets the stage for the weakening of the position of thewomen.
Fontane,T., Rorrison, H., & Chambers, H 2013, NoWay Back.London, Penguin Classics.
Parvey,R 2010, OnTangled Paths, By Theodor Fontane, trans. Peter James Bowman No WayBack, By Theodor Fontane, trans. Hugh Rorrison & Helen Chambers,[Online]Available at<http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/on-tangled-paths-by-theodor-fontane-trans-peter-james-bowmanno-way-back-by-theodor-fontane-trans-2155433.html>[Retrieved 16 May 2016]