Absence Speaks Louder: Kriztina's Subjugated Role in Embers College

At times, a novel can communicate the most with the stories it chooses not to tell, rather than the ones it does. In Sandor Marai’s moody, claustrophobic drama, Embers, such is the case of the Henrik’s wife Krisztina, a woman who is already long dead at the novel’s opening. Though essential to the narrative structure, and one third of the original hunting party, Marai forms Krisztina’s character as a veritable cypher. Her character is first referred to as merely “the new countess” (11); her name is only brought up, entire chapters later, through conversational reference (71). Her first trait to be revealed: she was fond of crayfish (71). Krisztina’s minimalist development, however, is far from banal. Though subtle, it is nonetheless critical to the work’s overall themes of emotional abandonment, stifling social order, and the true cost of honor. Cursed to love men too proud to love even themselves, the woman’s brief, tragic life is mirrored in the text by the perpetual shadow cast over the characters which survive her. By leaving a primary perspective vacant in the novel, Marai shapes Krizstina as the embodiment of the loss brought on by systemic emotional neglect, a collective social fate in which prideful misunderstandings,...

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