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Stefan Zweig - Fear (Angst) summary - Summary of Stefan Zweig's Novella Fear


Summary: Stefan Zweig - Fear

A woman called Mrs Irene gets caught cheating on her husband by the girlfriend of her lover (a pianist). She wears quite thick clothes, so the woman can’t see Mrs Irene’s face.

She becomes very frightened by the encounter and gives the woman some money. She then leaves immediately and takes a cab. At home, she goes through this mentally and she calms down. She decides to simply end the relationship with her lover. The next day, she receives a letter from the woman she met the day before. She demands 100 Kronen (old currency). Petrified, she follows that order and puts the wanted money in an envelope.

She wonders how this person has found out her address and she doesn’t leave the house for three days. Her husband, her children and the servants become suspicious, because she barely ever stays longer than a few hours at home. At the third day, she had to go out, because she was invited to a party with her husband. She thought it would do her good, because it would be extremely unlikely to meet this person at the party, because only noble person were invited to it.

At the party, she dances a lot. Her husband asks her if everything was alright, because he has never seen her dancing so enthusiastically. She freezes. Suddenly, she wondered if her husband knew anything with her relationship to her lover. Her husband suddenly became very serious and cold and the leave the party. They didn’t say one single word to each other during the ride back.


At home, she has a weird dream, where her husband wants to stab her to death, because he found out about her affair with the pianist. When she wakes up, her husband is next to her in her bed. She asks him why he was there and he answers that she was screaming for help in her sleep and he was afraid. He asks her if she has something which she wants to tell him. She nearly wanted to spill the beans, but she can’t.

The next day, she receives another letter from the cheated girlfriend in which she demands 200 Kronen. At this time, this was quite a lot of money and even though she lived in a wealthy family, she wouldn’t be able to give her the money forever.

She leaves her home and wanders in the streets of Vienna, where she also meets her former lover. Her lover is very confused, because he doesn’t really get what was going on. Mrs Irene can’t explain it to him, because she feels followed by the woman and leaves the man quickly.

When she gets back at home, she witnesses a trial. Her little daughter has destroyed the pretty toy horse of her younger brother and the little boy told this to his father. Since the father was a lawyer, they made sort of a trial. Eventually, the little girl gave in and was punished. She wasn’t allowed to go to a party the following day.

The husband once again asked his wife whether she wants to tell him something or not. He was in a quite generous mood. They have a talk about telling the truth or a crime to someone and about embarrassment. The cheater argues maybe it would be easier to tell someone the truth to whom one does not have a direct emotional relationship. She says maybe the little daughter wouldn’t have lied to him all the time, because he is her father and maybe she would have told this someone else easier.

Quick poll

Mrs Irene was becoming more and more insane, because of her fear. Some days later, the bell rang and when she opened the door she saw the woman in front of her. She demanded 400 Kronen, because she was ill for some reason and Mrs Irene didn’t have the money, so she gave her engagement ring to the woman.

At lunch, the husband noticed the missing ring and she lied by saying it was being cleaned and she would go and get it in two days. She set herself a deadline and she didn’t see any other way out than committing suicide.

Two days later, she was erring through the streets and suddenly found herself at her old lover’s home. She suddenly had the idea of asking him to help her get the ring. After all, he was the boyfriend of the evil woman. She knocked the door and he opened the door and she quickly told him what she wants. He said that he couldn’t, because he was giving a piano lesson. He had the feeling that Mrs Irene was insane, because he told her, he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Mrs Irene gets mad and goes into the room were supposedly there should be a lesson. She finds a naked girl on his bed, which wasn’t the woman. Confused, she excuses herself and leaves. She goes to a drug store and buys a chemical which would end her life. Still confused, she has problems counting the money. She realizes that someone else paid it for her. It was her husband and he told her to come home.

At home, he threw away the poison and told her everything. He engaged an actress to play a mad girlfriend, because he found out by coincidence that she was cheating on him. He wasn’t angry and talked to her very mildly the whole time. He only wanted to hear a confession from her, because of the kids. But he didn’t know that she was suffering so much and he said to her that now everything is alright and will be okay. She fell asleep and the next day everything was lovely once again.

Stefan Zweig – Fear

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Margaret Keene on August 28, 2015:

The summary is accurate but the use of English is very weak It interferes with the reading of the summary.

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