2Setting Knulp takes place in the 1890s. The story is set in Germany, mainly Lächstetten.
3Plot Summary (Early Spring) Knulp led a nomadic life, and after recently getting out of the hospital, he traveled to Lächstetten where his friend the tanner, Emil Rothfuss agrees to let him stay at his house for a while. Emil had gotten married since Knulp had last seen him. Frau (Mrs.) Rothfuss has a physical attraction towards Knulp, which makes the traveler uncomfortable. Knulp notices an attractive young servant girl in the house next door and begins to talk to her through the windows. He discovers that she has recently come here from the Black Forest, and her name is Bärbele. The next night, he gets her to agree to go out into town with her. They go to a music/dance hall. On their way back to Lächstetten, Knulp tells Bärbele that he will be leaving the next morning, and they kiss.
4Plot Summary (My Recollections of Knulp) A friend recalls his experiences with Knulp. Knulp was a fun loving guy, who the ladies all loved. Knulp also tells a dream to his bored friend about how he was in this familiar place, where people looked familiar, but everything was different. One of the women looked like his first love Henriette, but it was actually his second love Lisabeth. He leaves the town when he gets rejected, and then he realizes he passed by his old home, with his family and friends, without even realizing it. He was filled with great shame. Knulp also recalls people he has met, and whether or not he felt they were sincere in their message. Knulp and his friend go out to drink beers. They go to bed, and after an hour or so, when the friend wakes up, he discovers Knulp is gone.
5Plot Summary (The End)Knulp spots the carriage of an old friend from Latin school, Dr. Machold, and they begin to recall their school days. When the doctor hears Knulp’s cough, he insists he seeks treatment. Knulp begins to accept that he is an “old, sick man.” The doctor took Knulp to his house in Bulach to stay for a little while. Knulp and the doctor have a conversation about whether of not Knulp could have made more of himself. At this time Knulp reveals to the doctor that the reason he dropped out of Latin school was because of girls, and in particular, a girl named Franziska. She said she couldn’t have a sweetheart who attended Latin school, so he got himself kicked out. Knulp discovered she was with another guy, and that changed Knulp forever. The doctor was able to get Knulp a bed at the hospital. Before he goes, Knulp travels up to the blacksmith in order to get a razor. The next morning, the mayor’s driver came by to pick up Knulp. Before reaching the hospital, Knulp was able to convince the driver to drop him off at the edge of town. Knulp roamed the town, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Knulp headed up to the mountains where he met a stone breaker, Andres Schiable. After two weeks, Knulp was still in the mountains, and snow had fallen. He begins to have a conversation in his head with God about Knulp’s life. God tells Knulp, among other things, that he wanted him the way he is. Knulp lays down in the snow, and passes on.
6Main Character Descriptions Knulp is a wander who does things his way, and doesn’t care about what others believe in. He knows what his beliefs are, and he won’t change for anybody. He is also very shy, and does not get over confident when Frau Rothfuss raves about him.Herr Rothfuss is a tanner who is committed to his work, but he always has room for an old friend to stay. He is a very kind and caring man.Frau Rothfuss is a flirty woman, who makes it awkward for those she goes after. She takes great affection to Knulp, and is constantly pointing out great things about Knulp to her husband.Bärbele is a shy girl, who is homesick. She is a maid for a family and is very lonely. When Knulp reaches out to her she is very grateful, but she might get too easily emotionally attached.
7Main ConflictThe main conflict only involves one character, and that is Knulp. The conflict is within him, and he is the protagonist, with himself, and the expectations of society being the antagonist. His conflict stems from the pressures of society and the appearance to himself that he did not make the right decisions in life.Knulp is constantly questioning himself on whether or not he made the correct decisions. The biggest question is probably whether he made the correct choice in dropping out of Latin school for the chance to be Franziska’s sweetheart, which did not pan out. Knulp regrets his decision, because he wonders how his life would have turned out differently. This choice prevented him from becoming a scholar and derailed his plans. Knulp also wonders whether he made the correct decision regarding religion. He wants to believe in Christianity, but is countered by the beliefs of his friend Schlotterbeck. Schlotterbeck lost his faith because he felt the Bible was a bunch of lies, now he has five children, and can barely feed them, so he feels betrayed. Knulp does not know what to believe.Knulp also does not who he is, and questions his purpose in life. Knulp lives to befriend others, but people judge him for not picking one trade. He learns as many as he can and just travels, but he is also judged for this, and looked upon as not living up to his potential, wasting his talents. Others envy him however, because he is not tied down to marriage or kids, and can travel around as he pleases. Knulp begins to believe the judgments of others, including that he wasted his talents, and he did not fulfill his destiny.
8Resolution of Conflict Knulp’s inner conflict is finally resolved in Knulp’s last few days of life. As he is wandering about the mountains in the midst of a snowstorm, he has an inner cranial conversation with God. Knulp and God discuss Knulp’s life and what he did and did not accomplish. Finally God tells Knulp that he did not waste his talents, and he wanted Knulp just the way he was. That Knulp was a wanderer in his name, and he brought happiness to people. The things that Knulp did that people criticized him for were in God’s name. This puts Knulp’s mind at ease and allows him to die in peace.
9ThemesOne main theme prevalent throughout Knulp is Faith/Religion. Faith/Religion comes up throughout Knulp, and Knulp has conversations, or actions that result in the questioning of his faith.Another theme is Marriage/Family. The people Knulp has deep conversations with are either married and/or have a family.
10Faith/ReligionOne example is when Knulp meets up with his old friend Schlotterbeck. Knulp asks Schlotterbeck about religion, because he is trying to get into it. Knulp tells him that while in the hospital he read the Bible. At hearing this, Schlotterbeck tells Knulp that half the Bible is lies anyway. He also tells Knulp that religion is no good, and there is no use in it, since it contradicts anything good in it. This is curious to Knulp, and it eventually leads to his loss of faith.Another example is when Knulp has his conversation with God. Knulp is on his last legs, and before he dies, he wants to put some personal demons to rest before he dies. He asks God if he wasted his talents/abilities. God tells him that he was just the way he wanted him, since he was a wanderer in God’s name. This puts Knulp’s mind at ease, and he can die peacefully.A final example is not a conversation about religion, but a series of actions that results in the loss of Knulp’s faith. Knulp fell in love with a girl named Franziska. He dropped out of Latin school, because she said then he could be her sweetheart. When Knulp discovered Franziska with another guy, his childhood, innocence, and faith all died.
11Marriage/FamilyOne example of the prevalence of marriages and families in Knulp is when Knulp comes to his friend Emil Rothfuss’s house and he discovers his old friend has gotten married. This comes as quite a shock to Knulp, especially considering the attractiveness of Frau Rothfuss.Another example would be when Knulp is talking with his friend Schlotterbeck. Schlotterbeck begins complaining how difficult it is to try and support five children. It is then when Knulp reveals that he has a son, but because it was not known that Knulp was the father, and the mother died, it was taken in by another family. Knulp tells Schlotterbeck how fortunate he is to be able to even see his children, let alone live with them.Finally when Knulp is wandering about the mountainside and he comes across another old acquaintance, Andres Schaible. Schiable sees the condition that Knulp is in, and he tells him that if he had a wife and children, he would not live this wanderer’s life and would not be in the poor health that he is in, and could enjoy his life.
12CharacterizationKnulp’s characterization is very detailed and created in a number of ways. Knulp’s physical characteristics are complexly described by Frau Rothfuss through her compliments about him, about his “fine, dark hair,” and his face with his “bushy eyebrows, thin brown cheeks, fine red mouth, and slender neck.” Knulp is portrayed as a simple journeyman by Hesse, with friends in every town. The reader learns that Knulp isn’t comfortable making plans or promises ahead of time, because he like having tomorrow his to organize as he pleases. Knulp likes the Bible, but feels everyone needs to interpret it in his/her own way. Furthermore, Knulp’s primary passion is maintaining his roadbook in a neat and orderly fashion. The roadbook partly symbolizes Knulp, and can be described as a witness to his life. Knulp does what he pleases and when he visits with old friends, he makes himself feel at home, while still being polite, Hesse uses the comparison “as a nice-looking cat is indulged in a household, and left free to carry on an untroubled, elegant, splendidly aristocratic and idle existence.” Knulp isn’t one to settle down in one place, because he feels that he learns something new from all the different places his travels take him.
13CharacterizationHesse creates the characterization of Emil Rothfuss in several ways as well. Rothfuss isn’t as polite or well mannered as Knulp, as pointed out in the dialogue of his wife, but he has a respectful appreciation for Knulp. Emil is very welcoming and pleased that Knulp stays at his house. When the Rothfusses sit down to eat dinner, Hesse acknowledges Rothfuss as “the master of the house.” here Emil feels talkative, and tries to be entertaining, at the same time discussing his home life, and the benefits of being a master craftsman. His wife’s reaction to all the talk and doing nothing is that she finds her husband to be no match for the handsome and well mannered Knulp. Rothfuss quietly envies Knulp and his nature. Rothfuss has different views than Knulp, in that he believes the worker man and gets ahead is better off than the man who wants to be the spectator in life.
14Significant Quotes“The doctor nodded. “Just one word. I’m going to write a letter now—to see if I can get you into a hospital. The idea may not appeal to you, but there’s no other way. You’re done for unless you get proper care very soon.” “What difference does it make?” cried Knulp with unaccustomed violence. “I’m done for in any case. Nothing can help now, you know that yourself. Why should I let myself be shut up?” (pg )This passage shows Knulp’s feelings on life. He has an existential point of view when he knows that he is going to die. He says what does it matter, because death is inevitable. Knulp would rather enjoy the rest of his time while he is alive then being cooped up in a hospital the rest of his life. This part is significant because it leads Knulp back to his hometown in search fore some answers and closure, and to try and find some meaning in his life.
15Significant Quotes““Look,” said God. “I wanted you the way you are and no different. You were a wanderer in my name and wherever you went you brought the settled folk a little homesickness for freedom. In my name, you did silly things and people scoffed at you; I myself was scoffed at in you and loved in you. You are my child and my brother and a part of me. There is nothing you have enjoyed and suffered that I have not enjoyed and suffered with you.” “Yes,” said Knulp, nodding heavily. “Yes, that’s true, and deep down I’ve always known it.”” (pg 113 )This passage is telling how Knulp’s purpose in life was to do exactly what he did. God never intended on having Knulp get married or settle down, his purpose was to wander, bringing joy to all who he came in contact with. This is the most significant part of the book. Knulp has been so desperately searching for meaning in his life, and now he has found it. He realizes that he has lived his life as he was supposed to. Now he could die, knowing that his life had actually meant something.
16Literary Elements in the Work “Knulp said: “Every human being ahs his soul, he can’t mix it with any other. Two people can meet, they can talk to one another, they can be close together. But their souls are like flowers, each rooted to its place. One can’t go o another, because it would have to break away from its roots, and that it can’t do. Flowers send out their seeds, because they would like to go to each other; but a flower can’t do anything to make a seed go to its right place; the wind does that, and the wind comes and goes where it pleases.” (pg 64)Although Three Tales From the Life of Knulp lacks heavy symbolism, this quote illustrates a spurt on symbolism said by the character of Knulp and gives the reader deeper insight into his mindset. In Knulp’s symbolic quote, he concludes that loves isn’t totally perfect and is completely out of human hands, for the universe is indiffererent to the petty lives of mankind.
17Literary Elements in the Work “Knulp found the tailor on the third floor of a house set back from the street. His little workshop hung like a bird’s nest over the void, for the house was built on the hillside, and when you looked down from the windows, you not only had the three stories below you, but further on a steep slope covered with pathetic slanting gardens and patches of grass and ending in a gray confusion of chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and woodsheds; the nearest roofs that could be seen lay far below, at the bottom of the valley. However, the workshop was light and airy and as he sat cross-legged on his big table by the window the tailor could look out over the world like a lighthouse keeper.” (pg 24)In this quote in the first chapter of Knulp, Hesse’s imagery emerges as he describes the home of a tailor who is living a sad life. The high placement of the tailor’s is somewhat contradictory to his dim views on life and religion.