Fontane's anecdotes aid characterization, parallel plot development, provide Vorausdeutung and reflect major themes of the fictional works. Comparisons of Fontane's versions of anecdotes with the versions in his sources show that he rigorously evaluated every aspect of the source material in order to make extremely subtle and significant changes on it to suit his various purposes. Anecdotes provide a concise distillation of meaning, spurring the reader to further thought. Apparently casual passages of text are invested with important messages. In both fiction and autobiography, Fontane uses anecdote as a medium for reflection on and criticism of Prussian-German culture and tradition.
Contents: Anecdote and the Heart: L'Adultera, Graf Petöfy, Cécile, Frau Jenny Treibel – Anecdote and Period: Vor dem Sturm,
Schach von Wuthenow, Unterm Birnbaum, Unwiederbringlich – World-wide Associations: Der Stechlin – Anecdote and Autobiography:
Aus den Tagen der Okkupation, Meine Kinderjahre, Von Zwanzig bis Dreissig.