Homo Faber

Homo Faber Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Is Walter (or Frisch) successful at portraying the narrative as a series of coincidences resulting in tragedy? Or does fate also seem to play a role? Why would Walter want to see coincidence as the driving force behind what happened to him, rather than fate?

  2. 2

    Walter's and Hanna's daughter is called by three distinct names during the course of the novel: Sabeth, Elsbeth and Elisabeth. Identify who gives her each of these names, and make an argument for why different people call her different things.

  3. 3

    While stranded in the desert, Walter argues that as a technologist he is able to look at the world clearly, without being influenced by emotion or imagination. Similarly, he claims several times that he does not understand art, and it inspires no feelings in him. Yet, when Walter and Sabeth climb the hill in Greece, they make a game of constructing similes about everything they see and hear. While Sabeth is better at the game, Walter clearly tries to participate. Does Walter feel the same way about art and about imagination at the end of the novel as he seemed to at the beginning?

  4. 4

    Max Frisch chose to narrate his novel entirely from Walter's viewpoint; consequently, the reader is never exposed to what Sabeth is thinking or feeling, merely what Walter thinks she is thinking or feeling. How accurate does Walter's perception of Sabeth seem? What might have been different about the novel if Sabeth or other characters had presented their own perspectives on the events of the narrative (not just in conversation as reported by Walter)?

  5. 5

    Over the course of the novel, Walter has relationships with three different women: Ivy, Hanna, and Sabeth. Why might Frisch have chosen to include Ivy in the story? Is Walter's relationship with Ivy dramatically different from his relationships with Hanna and Sabeth?

  6. 6

    "Homo Faber" translates as "Man the Maker" or "Man the Fabricator." Why would Hanna call Walter "Homo Faber"? Why might Frisch have chosen this term for the title of the novel?

  7. 7

    Many critics argue that in the novel Max Frisch criticizes the American way of life. Provide a definition of what is presented as the American way of life and make an argument that this way of life is or is not presented in a negative manner throughout the novel. Can you disentangle Walter's perspective from Frisch's?

  8. 8

    At the end of the novel, Walter feels responsibility and guilt for the death of his daughter, but he never acknowledges guilt for committing incest with her. Is Walter absolving himself of guilt because he did not consciously know that Sabeth was his daughter? If you think so, was he justified in doing so? If he was not absolving himself of guilt, why does Walter refrain from confronting the issue head on?

  9. 9

    The novel takes place in numerous foreign locations, utilizing multiple forms of transportation, and it jumps backwards and forwards in time. What role does this dislocation play in the novel?

  10. 10

    The novel is split into two main sections called "First Stop" and "Second Stop." What is the significance of these names? What would have changed if the novel had been broken up into more discrete sections? Are there further natural breaks in the narrative (as suggested by the sections in this ClassicNote)?