A Lover's Flight: Arthur Schnitzler's “Die Frau des Weisen”

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Abstract

Schnitzler's early story, “Die Frau des Weisen,” features a protagonist whose behavior is as puzzling as any to be found in the author's opus. Seven years after his professor's wife suddenly caressed him – an event witnessed by the husband without the wife's knowledge – he meets her again at a Danish resort. She makes obvious her interest in a brief affair, an interest he shares even as he wonders why she makes no reference to their last meeting; that is, until he learns she is not aware that her husband witnessed the earlier scene, whereupon he suddenly finds her unapproachable and flees the resort. The essay examines possible reasons for the narrator's flight, including, among others, his wanting to escape a quasi-incestuous relationship, his desire for revenge on women (he had recently been jilted), and an inner paralysis that keeps him from acting.

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