Author Hesse H.
Publisher Foreign language teaching and research press
Page material gelatine plate paper
Beneath the Wheel is the story of Hans Giebenrath, a talented boy sent to an elite seminary in Maulbronn. However his education is focused on increasing his knowledge and neglects his development as a person. His close friendship with Hermann Heilner, who is less hard-working and more liberal than he, is a source of comfort for Hans. In the end, Heilner is expelled from the seminary, and Giebenrath is sent home after his performance decreases when he shows symptoms of mental illness.
Back home, he finds coping with his situation difficult, as he has lost most of his childhood to scholastic study and thus never had time to form lasting personal relationships with anyone in his village. He is apprenticed as a blacksmith and seems to enjoy the work; it is visceral and concrete, as opposed to the intellectual abstraction of scholarly work. However, he never fully adjusts to his new situation. Carousing together in a neighbouring village, he and his colleagues get drunk. Giebenrath leaves the group to walk home early. Later, he is found to have drowned in a river. There is general uncertainty over whether the death was an accident or a suicide.
Beneath the Wheel is one of Hesse's first novels and severely criticises education that focuses only on students' academic performance. In that respect the novel is typical of Hesse. There are also autobiographical elements in the story, as he attended and was expelled from the seminary described.
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