Thomas Mann's novel Buddenbrooks was written in the manner of a wide, unhurried narrative with a mention of many details, with a detailed depiction of individual episodes, with a multitude of dialogues and internal monologues. The fate of the Buddenbrook family is a story of a gradual decline and decay. "The decline of one family" is the subtitle of the novel. True, the fall of the Buddenbrook family is not a continuous process. Periods of stagnation are followed by periods of new recovery, but still the family as a whole is gradually weakening and dying.
In a close and inseparable connection with the family history, as the most important inseparable part of it, the history of the Buddenbrook firm is shown. It is strong and solid at first, then it comes to a somewhat stagnant state, afterwards it rises and flourishes, the centenary of the firm splashes magnificently, but then it is found out that the heyday was not quite healthy, signs of decline appear and unsuccessful deals are being made. More successful and arrogant merchants Hagenstremy and Kistenmakery increasingly push the firm Buddenbrook aside. Finally, after Thomas's death, it is eliminated.
The prosperity of the family and the prosperity of the company are two sides of the same process. The firm as well as the entire life-style of the Buddenbrook is, as long as the Buddenbrooks remain real Buddenbrooks, an indispensable condition for their life, the form of their existence, and the struggle for the interests of the firm is a struggle for the family.
The novel is organized as if inside of itself, very firmly and carefully, not by external data. Its wide current, outwardly unrestrained, resembles the flow of life, and this was one of the most important moments of the artistic design of Thomas Mann. In general the novel is built on the ever-changing advancement of individual characters to the forefront. This in no way leads to fragmentation, to the disintegration of the novel into separate pieces that do not depend on each other. The deep inner connection between all the members of the Buddenbrook family, determined by the proximity of their inner predispositions, the unity of their destiny, holds together these various episodes together in the strongest possible way, giving them unity.
The very movement of time, which is so significant for the novel, which action lasts for forty years, is largely based on these "general" episodes, which are important milestones in the history of the family. As for more "personal" episodes, they usually do not coincide with each other on a temporary basis. What is illuminated at the moment, as it were, obscures everything else that happens at the same time with other characters in the novel - their existence at this time, as it is tacitly assumed, is not marked by any particularly important events and lasts in the same forms, as before. And then the fate of another character comes out of the shadows and the movement of the time of the whole novel begins to be counted, and other fates recede into the background.
Such traits are more characteristic of the chronicle than of the psychological novel. And Buddenbrooks really combines these elements - this is both a psychological novel and a novel-chronicle, which is one of the main differences between Buddenbrooks and not only the German but also the all-European novel of the end of the century.