Defining realism as a category of literary communication, this study delineates three distinct patterns of reader experience within 19th-century German Realism. In considering the interaction of text and reader as constructing the world which a «realistic» novel is often said to reflect or describe, the author coordinates an analysis of the social systems constituted within the texts with a consideration of the narrative structure. The first pattern connects village tales by Auerbach with Freytag's Soll und Haben. A second pattern of reader experience, demonstrated in three novels by Fontane, exposes and manipulates the mechanisms of social integration. The final pattern, two works from Raabe's Braunschweig Trilogy, undermines the middle-class reality it evokes.