The stone heart

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The stone heart is a story by ETA Hoffmann from the Nachtstücke collection from 1817. The story inspired the German writer Arno Schmidt to write the title of his novel The stone heart from 1956.


The Councilor Maximilian Reutlinger has been seriously disappointed by his brother, who has now died. Now he also disregards his six-year-old son Max, because he was playing with a red stone that the Councilor wanted to insert into a marble stone. This stone was supposed to represent his heart and consequently the scene in which Max played with his "heart" is symbolic of the fact that his brother's son will also disappoint him.

In the further course of the narrative, Hofrat Reutlinger organized one of his famous celebrations, at which the guests were only allowed to dress in the style of the 1760s. Everyone is invited, including Privy Councilor Foerd and her pretty daughter Julie. During this feast, the Councilor said that he had seen his thirty years younger self apart from the crowd. Later it turns out that the person he saw is his now 18-year-old nephew Max, who asks the Councilor for forgiveness and asks if he could not take him back. The councilor declined this request until it found out that Max and Julie are a couple. As a result, his opinion is reversed and he takes in Max and Julie, who are later married. From then on his stone heart rests.

Narrative attitude

The first-person narrator behaves authorially and appears only as a narrative self. At the beginning, the narrator speaks directly to the implicit reader ("my beloved reader") and leads him through the apartments of Maximilian Reutlinger. Then the narrator withdraws almost completely and only conveys the story by letting the characters speak. Eventually, the narrator tunes back in and ends the narration by announcing to the implicit reader that Max and Julie got married.

Explanation of Reutlinger's behavior

Maximilian Reutlinger's desire to stay young is very strong. That is why Reutlinger also organizes parties at which you have to dress like you did when you were young. When his nephew suddenly shows up, he has a person with whom he can fully identify. Through him, he sees the opportunity to feel the feelings that he otherwise never felt: love and affection. Now that he has given up his own existence, he is as young as his nephew again.

Web links

Wikisource: Das Steinerne Herz  - Sources and full texts