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Beware of Pity Summary & Study Guide

Stefan Zweig
This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Beware of Pity.
This section contains 516 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Beware of Pity Summary & Study Guide Description

Beware of Pity Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig.

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig is a journey by the reader thorough his or her own reactions of pity to the characters in the story. The main character, Anton Hofmiller, is a military officer who is invited to the home of Herr Lajos von Kekesfalva, a wealthy aristocrat, for dinner one evening. He inadvertently asks the man's crippled daughter, Edith, to dance, and her reaction is one of anger and shame. Feeling pity for the woman, Hofmiller returns to the house the following day to bring her flowers. Over time, he becomes friends with the family, and his continued feelings of pity for Edit and her father, as well as for the rest of the inhabitants of the house, cause Hofmiller problems. Edith, in turn, begins to use her condition as a tool for manipulating those around her as their pity causes them to react in ways they otherwise would not. Kekesfalva, the father, uses his own story of his love for his daughter to evoke pity in Hofmiller, as well.

Hofmiller's pity for Edith eventually leads him to lie to her, telling her that her doctor, Condor, has a new treatment for her that may work. Condor is angered and confronts Hofmiller, and the two devise a plan that they will not reveal the truth to Edith, as her positive attitude may help her actually recover. However, soon Edith discloses that she has fallen in love with Hofmiller. On his part, Hofmiller is angry and ashamed, and does not want her love, but when Edith threatens suicide, Hofmiller relents. When Kekesfalva dejectedly comes to Hofmiller in fear for his daughter, Hofmiller agrees to marry Edith, provided she recovers from her illness. When asked about this engagement, however, Hofmiller lies yet again, and realizes he has inadvertently ended both his career and his life. He cannot return to the Kekesfalva's, nor his regiment, since both sides will know he has lied to them. He realizes he must ask Edith for forgiveness, but his message does not go through to her. Thinking Hofmiller has betrayed her, Edith commits suicide. Kekesfalva, destroyed by these events, soon dies as well, and Hofmiller is sent to the war front. He learns to forgive himself, but on returning home, a chance encounter with Condor makes him realize he can never fully forgive his crimes of pity.

Zweig uses the reader's own emotions as a weapon throughout the novel as the characters move between the pitied and the one feeling pity for another. The reader finds him or herself feeling sorry for Hofmiller, but later feeling angry and frustrated at his actions. Edith, too, evokes pity, but her treatment of others and her overall behaviors leave one moving between pity and anger. The same is true for all other characters in the story as more is revealed about these character's lives and their own use of deceit and emotional abuse to manipulate others. In addition, while the book is a wonderful in-depth study of pity, it is also a skillfully written book that one finds delightfully gripping.

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This section contains 516 words
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