Marie, the daughter of the protagonist Gesine Cressphal in Uwe Johnson's monumental novel Jahrestage, plays a key role not only in the development of the story but also as Johnson's assistant in the narration of his text and the promulgation of his theme. Subsequently, she represents a feature of the fiction for which Johnson has been much criticized (if not as much as he has been for the book's length). Johnson's portrayal of a ten- to eleven-year-old girl, living with her widowed (but not in the legal sense) mother in New York City and attending a private school, seems more than marred in the light of the sophisticated part she plays in the course of the book's events. The extent to which Johnson has distorted the intellectual faculties and emotional capabilities of a schoolgirl in the interests of attaining his narrative goals can be demonstrated by taking into consideration a situation which he describes halfway through the story. In reproducing Gesine's thoughts on arising one morning, he provides an analysis of the convoluted relationship between mother and daughter. Johnson delineates his half-awake, yet still dreaming protagonist (here a narrating "ich") in this way: "War noch eine Weile ich Gesine, ich Marie, wir das Kind und ich und die Stimmen aus dem Traum." Seeking to unravel these tangled strands, this essay explores the role of Marie as an aspect of Johnson's complex method of narration.



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