Elective Affinities | IAD: Table of contents

In Elective Affinities: IAD, the following is the table of contents to the various online chapters of the project:

Part one
The following are the eighteen chapters to the online version, part one (finished Jul 1808):

“In Part I, the aristocrat Eduard has finally been able to marry his first love, Charlotte, after both had been forced into socially advantageous marriages. Living at Eduard's country estate, they are joined by his friend, the Captain, and then by Charlotte's niece, Ottilie. The foolish Mittler—his name connotes that he will mediate between or even introduce previously separated individuals—plays a smaller role. While Charlotte and the Captain struggle against their growing attraction, first Eduard and then finally the innocent Ottilie acknowledge their love for each other. In a night of passion, Eduard and Charlotte embrace, while each longs intensely for a different partner. The next day, they openly declare their love, respectively, for Ottilie and the Captain. Charlotte, however, insists that they renounce these affinities and remain together. The Captain leaves the estate just as Eduard learns that Charlotte will bear the child conceived on that fateful night. Eduard, seeing himself deprived of Ottilie, throws himself into war, longing for death.”
Michael Jennings (1996), End Notes to English translation of Walter Benjamin’s “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” (1922) [9]

Part One
(Jul 1808)
EA | P1:C1
Edward, the main character of the novella, is introduced: a wealthy baron reacting in a sort of dull-drum existence on his vast country estate, near to a local town, married to Charlotte, his love from earlier years, to whom he was unable to marry at the time as they were each formerly in arraigned marriages of circumstance or necessity. They discuss inviting Edward's old friend the Captain?Reaction: combination reaction.
Characters: Edward, Charlotte, and the Gardener.
EA | P1:C2Edward dispatches a letter to send for the Captain; Edward and Charlotte discuss the state of affairs of her daughter Luciana, who is doing well at boarding school, and Ottilie, who, conversely, is doing poorly; the famous marriage mediator Mittler makes an appearance and gives his two-cents on things.Reaction: Interaction reaction / collision.
Characters: Edward, Charlotte, Mittler, and servants (castle).
EA | P1:C3
The Captain arrives.
EA | P1:C4 Captain explains "elective affinity" !!!Reaction: Double displacement reaction [?].
EA | P1:C5
They read the letters on Ottilie at school; and decide to send for her.
EA | P1:C6Ottilie arrives; they bring out the chart of the estate landscape to study.
EA | P1:C7With the Captain away with Charlotte, Edward and Ottilie begin to bond.
EA | P1:C8Suggest they lay the foundation stone on Ottilie's birthday.
EA | P1:C9
The famous "good foundations" quote occurs.
EA | P1:C10The "five year marriage" dialogue proposal, via the Count, is discussed.
EA | P1:C11 Features the notorious scene of 'mental double adultery': while they are making love, Charlotte imagines that she is with the Captain, and Eduard that he is with Ottilie. See: maternal imagination theory.
EA | P1:C12

EA | P1:C13

EA | P1:C14Offer for Captain to become a Major.
EA | P1:C15

EA | P1:C16

EA | P1:C17

EA | P1:C18

Part two
The following are the eighteen chapters to the online version, part two (finished Oct 1809):

Part II is suffused with symbols of death. The action stagnates, as the narrator focuses on Ottilie's psychological processes, which are conveyed primarily by lengthy excerpts from her diary. The child is an ever-present reminder of infidelity: it resembles not its parents but Ottilie and the Captain. As Eduard returns from battle, he visits the Captain and proposes that each marry the person he truly loves; at the estate, he explains the child's origins to Ottilie and asks for her hand. Ottilie accepts, on the condition that Charlotte also accept the Captain. It is at this point that the passage so important to Benjamin's reading occurs: "Hope shot across the sky above their heads like a falling star." Yet the emotional turmoil produced in Ottilie by her love for Eduard brings on the catastrophe: as she returns across the lake, the child falls from the rocking boat and drowns. Eduard greets the loss as an act of providence that has removed the final obstacle to his desire; even Charlotte agrees to the new arrangement, acknowledging the extent to which her rigorous moralism precipitated the disaster. But Ottilie, now recognizing her complicity in the events, renounces Eduard and seeks shelter in a convent. Eduard's passionate intervention robs her of even this recourse, and she chooses total passivity, refusing to speak or eat, believing that this will help her achieve not merely absolution but a form of holiness. Shortly after her death—effectively a suicide—Eduard dies also, and they are buried together in the estate's funeral chapel.”
Michael Jennings (1996), End Notes to English translation of Walter Benjamin’s “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” (1922) [9]

Part Two
(Oct 1809)
EA | P2:C1

EA | P2:C2

EA | P2:C3
See: Lorna McIntosh
EA | P2:C4Contains Ottilie's aphorisms (from her diary)
EA | P2:C5

famous "freedom" quote
EA | P2:C6

EA | P2:C7

EA | P2:C8

EA | P2:C9

EA | P2:C10

EA | P2:C11

EA | P2:C12

EA | P2:C13The child Otto drowns.Charlotte agrees to a divorce, after this incident
EA | P2:C14

EA | P2:C15

EA | P2:C16

EA | P2:C17

EA | P2:C18Mittler gives his Ten Commandments talk.

Six section outline view
Literary commentator Joseph O’Leary argues in his 2005 discussion essay "Goethe in The Golden Bowl" that the 36 chapters of Goethe's Elective Affinities can be broken down or grouped into a 6x6=36 structure or six sections of six chapters each. In this model, the basic plot outline is as follows: [2]

Section 1: Formation of the foursome:
Eduard and Charlotte, who wished to marry in youth and have finally done so in middle age (after the death of their respective spouses), are installed in their magnificent estate. They decide to invite his friend the Captain and her niece Ottilie, schoolmate of her daughter Luciane, to stay with them. The Captain helps Eduard beautify the estate and expounds the chemical topic of elective affinities. Charlotte feels rather neglected. But the arrival of the introverted, slightly anorexic Ottilie provides her with companionship.

Section 2: The double adultery:
The two couples, thrown together as in a laboratory vessel, form new attachments. Eduard's passion for Ottilie grows like wildfire. At a foundation-laying ceremony on Charlotte's birthday he throws a glass in the air but it is not smashed; it is inscribed with the letters E and O which he takes as an omen. The visit of an adulterous couple, the Count and the Baroness, creates a sense of moral disorder. Eduard and Charlotte make love while thinking of Ottilie and the Captain respectively; the next day Edward embraces Ottilie, Charlotte the Captain.

Section 3: Departure of the two men:
Charlotte tries to restore things to normal. On Ottilie's birthday the Captain saves a boy from drowning. Eduard ignores the general commotion and puts on the fireworks display for Ottilie alone. The Captain leaves. Promising Charlotte that he will try to cure his passion, Eduard retires to a smaller residence, having ensured that Ottilie will stay on, and then joins the army. Charlotte reassures the ex-clergyman Mittler that her marriage is not doomed, for she is pregnant.

Section 4: Intermezzo:
The two women are taken up with an architect who is devoted to Ottilie and with the vain and over-energetic Luciane. They enact various aesthetic fads of the period, culminating in tableaux vivants from which Luciane excludes Ottilie. When Luciane has left, the architect stages new tableaux in which Ottilie poses radiantly as the Blessed Virgin.

Section 5: The re-emergence of the fateful relationships:
After the visit of Ottilie's tutor, Charlotte gives birth to a boy who resembles Ottilie and the Captain. A visiting English Lord tells a story which may suggest that Charlotte and the Captain were lovers in the past. More Romantic fads: Ottilie reveals a capacity for water-divining; Charlotte refuses the Lord's offer to cure Ottilie's headache by magnetism. Eduard tells the Captain (now a Major) that his survival in battle means that Ottilie is his. He will divorce Charlotte and the Captain can marry her. This will restore all-round harmony.

Section 6: Tragedy and apotheosis:
Stealing back to his estate, Eduard finds Ottilie with his son by the lake and explains his plan. Her excitement causes a boating accident in which his child drowns. Charlotte agrees to the divorce. But Ottilie, stricken with guilt, renounces Eduard. Eduard meets her at an inn on her journey back to the boarding school; she gently declines his advances but returns with him to Charlotte. Charlotte, to soothe Edward, agrees to marry the Major, on condition that Ottilie first agrees to marry Eduard. Ottilie falls into anorexia and mutism, and explains in a written statement that her passion for Eduard has disoriented her and that she wants to recover herself. She hears Mittler speak of the sanctity of marriage, and faints. She dies shortly after, asking Eduard to promise to live. Seeing Ottilie's funeral, the servant-girl Nanny leaps down from her window, and is severely injured, but is miraculously healed when she touches Ottilie's body. A cult forms around Ottilie. Edward discovers that the glass inscribed with E and O has been broken, and he too becomes mute and anorexic, and dies.

O'Leary comments further: "the inserted novella points to a hidden story under the surface. The Captain would have married Charlotte but for his loyalty to Eduard; they try to have Eduard fall in love with Ottilie instead, but he is not swayed. Charlotte knows the episodes in the Captain's life on which the novella is based (442), and we may gather, as James may have, that the girl was Charlotte herself (Winkelman, 80). In the story Charlotte rejects her boring fiance (Eduard) for the Captain; this happy ending, the opposite of what actually happened, moves her so much that she has to leave the room. When Eduard proposes inviting the Captain, Charlotte makes her consent contingent on his consent to the corresponding visit by Ottilie, hoping (at least subconsciously) that this will lead to Eduard falling in love with Ottilie after all and to a divorce that will free Charlotte to marry the Captain. The ethical shadiness of this and the necessity of squaring the Captain's high principles explain the inconsistencies in her later behaviour (Winkelman, 24-9, 79-83, 100-1). The division in her motivations makes Charlotte a 'fascinating woman' rather than the 'bland personification of virtue' critics have seen in her (103)." [2]

1. Benjamin, Walter. (1921). “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” (trans. Stanley Corngold; "writing the translation notes goes—I’m quite sure—to the Chief Editor, Michael W. Jennings", Corngold email to Thims) (scribd), first published by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in the Neue Deutsche Beitrage (1924/25); in: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926 (Elective Affinities, pgs. 297-360). Harvard University Press, 1996.
2. O’Leary, Joseph S. (2005). “Goethe in ‘The Golden Bowl’”, Essays on Literary and Theological Themes, Jun 22.

Elective Affinities (icon) 250

More pages