Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Hammer and Anvil
Friedrich Spielhagen (1829–1911)
Hammer and Anvil (‘Hammer und Amboss’), by Friedrich Spielhagen (1869), is a novel grounded on a conception of the continual struggle between castes, arising largely from the character of the social institutions of Germany,—the nobility, the military organization, and the industrial conditions. The leading idea is expressed by one of the characters, the humane director of a house of correction, who says: “Everywhere is the sorry choice whether we will be the hammer or the anvil in life. And the same character is made to express Spielhagen’s solution of the difficulty when he says: “It shall not be ‘hammer or anvil’ but ‘hammer and anvil’; for everything and every human being is both at once, and every moment.”  1
  It is not, however, easy to trace the development of this idea as the motive of the book; for the novelist’s power lies rather in his charm as a narrator than in constructive strength or analytical ability. In this, as in most of his stories, he obtains sympathy for the personalities he creates, and enchains attention by his gift of story-telling. Georg Hartwig, the hero of the novel, is brought into contact with a fallen nobleman, a smuggler, “Von Zehren the wild,” with his beautiful and heartless daughter Constance, and with a contrasted group of honorable and generous persons who teach him much. Chief of these is another Von Zehren, the prison director, an ideal character. His daughter Paula exercises the influence which opposes that of Constance in Hartwig’s life, and leads him to new effort and success. Georg himself is one of those who by nature tend to become “anvil” rather than “hammer.” The story, though less famous than ‘Problematic Characters’ or ‘Through Night to Light,’ is a great favorite with German readers.  2

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