Literary historians have generally attempted to refine the classification of 18th-century German novels by formulating subgenres based on differences within the novels, such as plot type or intended readership. A more effective method can be devised, however, if the novels' essential conceptual similarities are utilized as a basis.
Tugend is a key concept in literature during this century and so provides a legitimate foundation on which to base such a classification system. In this book the author briefly traces the evolution of
Tugend from its Greek origins through the 18th century showing it to be the basis of middleclass society's traditional moral code. Three categories are then defined based on the protagonist's adherence to, or deviation from, this code. Six novels by von Loen, Gellert, Vulpius, La Roche and Goethe are analyzed to demonstrate these categories.