The ending of the novel is deeply depressing. But an interesting contrast between the opening and closing passages is made by Todd Kontje in the article I mentioned earlier.
He points up the fact that Hanno and his Great Grandfather are figures who are polar opposites and in this opposition they focus the catastrophic failure of the family.
Johan is seen as a patriarch. He is surrounded by a "growing family" and runs a "prosperous firm". We see him as decisive, respected and having agency.
On the other hand, Hanno is young but has none of the energetic enthusiasm we associate with youth. He is victimised in school, is a poor student, and procrastinates at every opportunity. I think that Hanno is completely negative; he has no seed of life within himself and his sad death only sealed his sterility. On a personal basis I felt very sorry for Hanno and the Prussian dominated school exacerbated his misery. But the fact remains that he had no agency; he was controlled rather than creative.
Another interesting contrast is between the young Tony who is learning the fundamentals of religion and a belief in God and the older Tony at the end. She has clearly become a sceptic who has serious doubts concerning the validity of a religious ethical system's ability to help one engage with the problems of life. It is true that Sesame asserts the value and truth of the old system but she does it against reason and through the courage of simple faith. She has the final word but is it convincing?
Last edited by fantasyfan; 08-17-2013 at 11:33 AM.