Beware of Pity
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"Beware of Pity" Characters Analysis

By Stefan Zweig

fiction | 353 pages | Published in NaN

The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings.Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world away from the dreary routine of his barracks. The surroundings are glamorous, wine flows freely, and the exhilarated young Hofmiller asks his host's lovely daughter for a dance, only to discover that sickness has left her painfully crippled. It is a minor blunder, yet one that will go on to destroy his life, as pity and guilt gradually implicate him in a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to restore the unhappy invalid to health."Stefan Zweig was a dark and unorthodox artist; it's good to have him back." —Salman Rushdie


Estimated read time: 4 min read

List of Characters

Anton HofmillerProtagonist
Edith KekesfalvaLove Interest
Ilona KekesfalvaEdith's Sister
Herr KekesfalvaEdith's Father
Lieutenant TaittingerAnton's Friend

Role Identification

Anton Hofmiller is the protagonist of "Beware of Pity". He is a young and naive cavalry officer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Edith Kekesfalva is the love interest of Anton, while her sister Ilona and father Herr Kekesfalva also play important roles in the story. Lieutenant Taittinger is Anton's friend and fellow officer.

Character Descriptions

Anton Hofmiller is a young and idealistic officer who is stationed in a small town. He is described as handsome and charming, but also somewhat naive and inexperienced. Edith Kekesfalva is a beautiful and vivacious young woman who captures Anton's attention from the moment he meets her. Ilona Kekesfalva is Edith's younger sister, who is portrayed as fragile and delicate. Herr Kekesfalva is a wealthy and respected landowner, who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.

Character Traits

Anton Hofmiller is characterized by his idealism and desire to do good. However, he often finds himself torn between his desire to help others and his fear of being seen as weak or pitiful. He is also prone to making impulsive decisions and is easily swayed by the opinions of others. Edith Kekesfalva is portrayed as spirited and lively, but also deeply vulnerable due to her father's condition. Ilona is depicted as fragile and introverted, while Herr Kekesfalva is shown as proud and stubborn.

Character Background

Anton Hofmiller comes from a middle-class background and joined the military to escape the monotony of civilian life. He is ambitious and wants to prove himself as a capable officer. Edith and Ilona Kekesfalva come from a wealthy and aristocratic family, but their lives have been overshadowed by their father's paralysis. The family's wealth and social status play a significant role in the dynamics between the characters.

Character Arcs

Throughout the novel, Anton Hofmiller experiences a significant character arc. Initially, he is infatuated with Edith and wants to help her in any way possible. However, as he becomes more entangled in the Kekesfalva family's problems, he begins to realize the consequences of his actions. Anton's idealism is tested, and he is forced to confront his own flaws and weaknesses. By the end of the novel, he undergoes a transformation and learns the importance of honesty and taking responsibility for his actions.

Edith's character arc is also notable, as she transitions from a vibrant and hopeful young woman to someone consumed by despair. Her love for Anton becomes a source of pain and humiliation, and she ultimately pays a heavy price for their ill-fated relationship. Ilona's character arc, although less prominent, showcases her growth from a timid and sheltered girl to someone who finds her own voice and stands up for herself.


The relationship between Anton and Edith forms the central focus of the story. Anton is initially drawn to Edith's beauty and vivacity, but as their relationship deepens, he realizes the extent of her vulnerability and the weight of his responsibility towards her. Their relationship is characterized by misunderstandings, secrets, and the power dynamics between a young officer and a vulnerable young woman.

Anton's friendship with Lieutenant Taittinger also plays a significant role in the story. Taittinger serves as a moral compass for Anton, offering advice and guidance throughout his journey. He often challenges Anton's decisions and forces him to confront his own flaws.

The relationship between the Kekesfalva sisters, Edith and Ilona, is explored to a lesser extent but provides insight into their contrasting personalities. Edith's relationship with her father is also crucial, as his condition and their family dynamics shape her character and choices.

In conclusion, "Beware of Pity" by Stefan Zweig delves into the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of pity. The characters' backgrounds, traits, and arcs are intricately woven to create a compelling narrative that explores themes of love, duty, and the destructive power of misconceived intentions.