The Earthquake in Chile by Heinrich Von Kleist is a German short story that is best known for its question of theodicy and whether there is meaning to all events in life. The people of the city are searching for an answer as for why god would create an earthquake that destroyed buildings and some people. However in the midst of the destruction Joesphe and Jeronimo, a couple in love who were sent to be executed and prisoned for their sins are freed because of this earthquake. Although they are temporarily freed, a mob tries to kill the two lovers and their child but mistakenly kills the wrong child. The twist in events makes people question whether there is an underlying reason for this natural event of the earthquake as well as what it has done to the people living in the city. During lecture as well as seminar, we discussed how philosophers such as Immanuel Kant believed that natural events have no real meaning yet we live in a world where people constantly want to place explanations onto everything that occurs.

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This story is over 5 years old. Dec 2 , am. Herr Kleist is a dead German author, poet, and philosophical essayist of the Romantic persuasion. Most of his characters are engrossing emotional nutcases, and scholars used to get all huffy about his supposed influence on fascist ideology, but they were probably just jealous of his breadth.

Regardless of any of this, the consensus is that is work is a cornerstone of modern drama. The old Don, who had expressly warned his daughter, was enraged to such an extent by a secret denunciation conveyed to him, thanks to the crafty eavesdropping of his proud son, that he himself had his daughter sent off to the Carmelite Cloister of Our Beloved Lady of the Mountain.

By a fortuitous coincidence, Jeronimo had managed to reestablish contact here, and on a silent night made the cloister garden the scene of his consummated bliss.

It was on Corpus Christi Day, and the festive procession of nuns, followed by the novices, had just got started, when, at the tolling of the bells, the unfortunate Josephe collapsed in labor on the steps of the cathedral. This occurrence caused quite a scene; the young sinner was immediately hauled off to a prison, without consideration for her condition, and hardly had she given birth when, on the express orders of the archbishop, she was made to undergo the most grueling trial.

All that could be done was that, by an edict of the viceroy, the death by fire to which she was condemned was commuted to death by beheading, this to the great disgruntlement of the matrons and young girls of Santiago. Jeronimo, who had in the meantime likewise been incarcerated, almost lost consciousness upon learning of the dreadful turn of events.

To no avail did he try to come up with an escape plan; wherever the wings of his most audacious ideas drew him they struck against lock and wall, and an attempt to file through the window grill, as soon as it was discovered, led to his transfer to a still more narrow cell. He flung himself down before the picture of the holy mother of God and prayed to her with boundless fervor as the only one who could still save him.

But the dreaded day came, and with it the absolute certainty of the complete hopelessness of his situation. The bells that were to accompany Josephe to the place of execution began to toll, and desperation overwhelmed his soul. Life seemed hateful and he decided to seek death by means of a cord that chance had left him. As already mentioned, he was presently stationed beside a pillar and was in the process of fastening the cord that was to wrest him free of this wretched world to an iron hook attached to the cornice, when, suddenly, the greater part of the city collapsed with a crash, as if the firmament caved in, and all that breathed life was buried under its ruins.

Jeronimo Rugera was numb with horror; and now, as if his entire consciousness had been shattered, he held on for dear life to the pillar from which he was supposed to have died, so as to keep from falling. Trembling, with hair on end and knees about to buckle under, Jeronimo slid across the slanting floor toward the opening which the collision of both buildings had torn out of the front wall of the prison.

He had hardly managed to escape outdoors, when, in the wake of a second tremor, the entire, already shattered street, completely caved in. With no thought as to how he would save himself from this general destruction, he scampered over rubble and fallen beams as death lunged for him from all sides, heading for one of the nearest gates of the city.

But another house collapsed on his way, its tumbling ruins flying in all directions, forcing him down a side-street; here the flames already soared, flashing through billowing clouds of smoke from the gabled rooftops, driving him in terror down yet another street; where, flooding its bed, the Mapocho River caught him in its current and swept him, screaming, down a third street.

Here lay a heap of the slaughtered, here a lone voice groaned buried under the rubble, here people shrieked from burning rooftops, here man and beast battled with the flood, here a brave soul tried to help; here stood another, pale as death, stretching his trembling hands in silence to the heavens.

When Jeronimo reached the gate and managed to scamper up a hilltop just outside the city, he collapsed unconscious.

He may have lay there for a good quarter hour or so, in the deepest sleep, when he finally reawakened, and with his back to the city, raised himself half upright on the ground. But the wretched heaps of fallen humanity everywhere he looked tore at his heart; he could not fathom what had driven him and them to this state, and it was only when he turned around and saw the city lying in ruins behind him that he remembered the terrible moments he had lived through.

A bottomless sadness once again filled his breast; he began to repent of his prayer, and the force that held sway above seemed abominable to him.

He mingled with the crowd of people primarily engaged in saving their possessions pouring out of the city gates, and timidly dared inquire after the daughter of Asteron and if her execution had been carried out; but no one was able to give him a conclusive account. Jeronimo turned around; and since, considering the time elapsed, he could not himself doubt that the execution had taken place, he sat himself down in a lonely wood and yielded to the full extent of his pain.

He wished that the destructive force of nature would once again erupt upon him. He could not fathom why he had escaped the fate that his miserable soul had sought in those awful moments, since death seemed to advance unbidden to his rescue from every direction. He firmly resolved not to budge from the spot, even if here and now the mighty oaks were to be uprooted and the treetops were to tumble down on him.

Whereupon, having cried his heart out, and hope having been rekindled amidst the hottest tears, he stood up and traversed the surrounding terrain in every direction. The sun sank low in the sky, and with it his hope once again began to sink, as he clamored up to the edge of a cliff, and his gaze fell upon a wide valley in which but a handful of people could be seen.

He passed in haste through the individual groups of people he found there, uncertain of what to do next, and was about to turn around again, when he suddenly spotted a young woman seated by a wellspring whose water ran down into the gorge, busily washing a child in its stream. And his heart leapt at this sight: he clambered in a fury down into the ravine and cried out: Oh holy mother of God! Josephe was on her way to death, already very close to the place of execution, when the entire execution apparatus was suddenly smashed to pieces in the crashing collapse of buildings.

Her first panic-stricken steps thereupon carried her toward the nearest gate; but she soon returned to her senses and turned around to head back to the cloister where her helpless little boy had been left behind. She found the entire cloister already in flames, and the abbess, who, in those moments that were to have been her last, had offered succor to the newborn, crying outside the gate for someone to help save the boy. Josephe staggered undaunted through the burst of smoke that blew toward her into the building that was already collapsing all around her, and just as if all the angels in heaven stood guard over her she reemerged safely with him out the portal.

She wanted to fall into the arms of the abbess, who had clasped her hands over her head in joy, at the very moment when the latter, together with almost all the other sisters, were killed in a most ignominious way by a falling gable.

She had only taken a few steps when she encountered the crushed corpse of the archbishop that had just been dragged out of the rubble of the cathedral. Josephe pulled herself together to keep going.

She bravely strode with her precious booty from street to street, chasing the misery from her breast, and was already almost at the city gate when she also spotted the ruins of the prison in which Jeronimo had been held. At the sight of this she tottered, about to fall unconscious in a corner; but at that selfsame moment the collapse of another building behind her that had been rattled by the tremors drove her back up again; fortified by her fright, she kissed the child, wiped the tears from her eyes and staggered to the gate, turning a blind eye to the horror that surrounded her on every side.

At the next crossroad she stopped dead in her tracks and waited to see if a certain someone, after little Philip the dearest to her in the world, might yet appear. But since that person did not turn up and the fleeing mass of humanity grew from moment to moment, she continued on her way, and turned again and waited; and shedding bitter tears, she slunk into a dark valley shaded by stone-pines to pray for his soul which she believed to be departed; and here in the valley she found this beloved person, and so found bliss, as if it were the Valley of Eden.

Meanwhile, the loveliest night had fallen, a wondrously mild, scented night, so silvery and still as only a poet could have dreamed up. Everywhere along the riverbed, in the shimmer of the moonlight, people had set up camp and were in the process of preparing soft beds of moss and leaves to rest their weary bones after such a torturous day. And since the poor wretches were still weeping: the one over the loss of his house, another over wife and child, and a third over the loss of everything—Jeronimo and Josephe slipped off into a denser thicket so as to sadden no one with the sound of the secret jubilation of their rejoicing souls.

They found a splendid pomegranate tree, its branches spreading wide covered with fragrant fruit; and on its topmost branch the nightingale piped its voluptuous song.

Here beside its trunk Jeronimo sat down to rest, with Josephe on his lap and Philip on hers, all under the cover of his coat. For they had countless things to tell each other of cloister garden and cold prison cell, and how they had each suffered for the other; and they were deeply stirred when they fathomed how much misery the world had had to suffer to permit their happiness!

Hereupon, after showering each other with kisses, they finally fell asleep. When they awakened, the sun had already risen high in the sky and they noticed several families nearby engaged in preparing themselves a modest breakfast over on open fire.

Jeronimo himself was just then pondering how he would go about finding sustenance for his own when a well-dressed man with a child in his arms walked up to Josephe and asked her discreetly: would she be willing to briefly give her breast to suckle this poor little creature whose mother lay injured beneath yonder trees?

Don Fernando was very grateful for this kindness and asked if she would join the little group that was just then gathered round the fire preparing a small breakfast. If they now saw themselves treated with such great intimacy and kindness, they did not know what to make of the recent past, of the place of execution, of the prison and the bell; and wondered if it had only been a bad dream. It was as if the dispositions of their fellow citizens had all been rendered conciliatory following the terrible shock.

They could not revert any further back in their memories than to that moment. Only Donna Elizabeth, who had been invited by a girlfriend the day before to witness the spectacle of the execution from her rooftop, but declined the invitation, cast an occasional dreamy look at Josephe; but word of some new terrible misfortune soon tore her attention, hardly rooted in the present, back to that time. At one point, amidst the liveliest recounting of simultaneous experiences of the quake, Donna Elvira, to whose wounds Josephe assiduously tended, took the liberty of asking her how she had weathered that terrible day.

Josephe bethought herself among the blessed souls in heaven. In a burst of emotion which she was not able to hold back, for all the misery that the preceding day had wrought, she called it an act of deliverance the like of which heaven had never released upon the world.

Instead of the meaningless chatter for which the world ordinarily furnished material aplenty at teatime, people now recounted cases of inconceivable heroism; they spoke of individuals who in the past had been but little respected in society who rose to the grandeur of ancient Romans; countless examples were given of fearlessness, of cheerful recklessness in the face of danger, of self-denial and godly self-sacrifice, of the unflinching abandonment of life as though it were the most worthless possession that one was likely to find again round the next bend.

Indeed, seeing as there was not a soul to whom something stirring had not happened on that day or who had not himself performed some magnanimous deed, the bitter pain in every human heart was mixed with the sweetest sense of gratification, so much so that it was impossible to assess if the sum total of general well-being had not increased just as much as it had diminished.

After listening in silence to the last of these accounts, Jeronimo took Josephe by the arm and led her with indescribable joy up and down beneath the shady canopy of the pomegranate grove. He told her that, given the current cast of mind of the people and the subversion of all social norms, he had abandoned his initial decision to ship off to Europe; that should the viceroy, who had always proven himself favorably inclined to his cause, still be alive, he would hazard an appearance and fall to his knees before him; and that he had every hope of being able to remain in Chile with her—whereupon he pressed a kiss on her forehead.

Josephe replied that she had harbored similar thoughts; that, if only her father were still alive, she, too, did not doubt of a reconciliation between them; but that instead of begging mercy on their knees, she would rather that they make their way to La Concepcion—that city being close to the harbor, just in case—and from there, pursue in writing the business of a pardon with the viceroy, and that if things turned out as they wished they could easily make their way back to Santiago.

After thinking it over a bit, Jeronimo agreed to the wisdom of this cautious measure, and reflecting on happy times that lay ahead, led her back and forth a few more times beneath the shady bower, before rejoining their companions. In the mean time the day had advanced to afternoon, and as the after-shocks of the quake had abated, the swarm of refugees had barely had a chance to calm their spirits when word spread that the prelate of the Dominican cloister planned to say a solemn mass in the Dominican church, the only structure that had survived the quake in tact, to pray to heaven for the aversion of any further misfortune.

The people soon broke camp in all corners and streamed into the city. Donna Elisabeth reminded, albeit with a catch in her throat, what an unholy thing had occurred the day before in the cathedral; that such thanksgiving services would, after all, be repeated, and that they would feel themselves freer to give full vent to their feelings with greater serenity and peace since the danger would by then be long gone.

Leaping to her feet, Josephe promptly remarked that she had never felt a more burning need to lay her face in the dust before her Maker, now that He had manifested his incomprehensible and sublime might in this way. Donna Elvira enthusiastically agreed with Josephe. She insisted that they go hear the mass, and called upon Don Fernando to lead the way, whereupon the whole group, including Donna Elisabeth, rose to their feet.

But since the latter was perceived to hesitate with a heaving breast in all the little preparations for leaving, and in answer to the question: what ailed her? Hereupon, Don Fernando, who was very touched by her great dignity and grace, offered her his arm; Jeronimo, who was carrying little Phillip, lead Donna Constanza; all the other members of the group followed; and in this order they headed back into the city.

Hereupon, the latter approached him, albeit, so it seemed, with a certain hesitation, and whispered a few words in his hear, so softly that Josephe could not hear them.

The crush of people stretched till far in front of the portals and all the way out to the esplanade, and along the walls in the spaces between paintings stood boys with their caps in their hands, casting longing looks aloft. The chandeliers glimmered, and in the twilight just now setting in the columns cast eerie shadows, the big rose-colored, stained glass window in the outermost background glowed like the setting sun that lent its light, and as soon as the organ stopped playing all was silent in the gathered throng as if not a single soul had a sound left in his breast.

Never before in a Christian cathedral had such a fervent flame climbed up to heaven as today in the Dominican Cathedral of Santiago; and no human breasts gave more heat to the flame than those of Jeronimo and Josephe!

The service began with a sermon delivered from the pulpit by the oldest canon decked out in festive finery. He started right in, stretching his trembling hands out from under his flowing vestments up to the heavens, praying with praise, thanks and glory that there were still people left in this devastated corner of creation able to mutter thanks to God. Hereupon, in the flow of priestly oratory, he lashed out against the moral corruption of the city; horrors as not even Sodom and Gomorra had endured would be their just deserts; and it was only thanks to the infinite forbearance of God that they were not totally wiped off the face of the earth.

He cast a cautious look at Jeronimo, while desperately scanning the gathered throng: Was there not a soul who recognized him? By God, let all good Christians gathered in this temple of Jesus stone them!

Let go of that man who is wholly innocent! What happened to you? After soliciting the sword of the marine officer, he offered Josephe his arm and bid the other couple follow him. When, in response to such a show of gallantry, people stepped aside and let them pass with a modicum of respect, they did indeed manage to make their way out of the church and thought themselves saved.

Master Pedrillo struck her down with a cudgel. Don Fernando, that godly hero, now stood with his back up against the church, clutching the children under his left hand and the sword in his right.

With every lightning stroke he brought a man down; a lion fights no more fiercely. Seven bloodhounds lay dead at his feet, the leader of the satanic rabble himself was wounded. Whereupon he fell still, and the rabble dispersed. When Don Fernando saw his little Juan lying there, head split open, with the brains spilling out, he raised his gaze to heaven, consumed with unspeakable grief. Hereupon Don Fernando and Donna Elvira took in the little stranger as their adoptive son; and when Don Fernando compared Philip with Juan, and reflected on how he had come to be blessed with each, it almost seemed to him as though he ought to be happy.


The Earthquake in Chile

The novella's central characters are two lovers caught up in the chaos of the Santiago earthquake in Chile. The story begins with the lead character, Jeronimo Rugera, preparing to hang himself in prison in Santiago in Rugera had been a tutor at the house of Don Asteron, but Don Asteron dismissed him upon Asteron's discovery of an illicit relationship between his daughter and Jeronimo. Jeronimo and Josephe continued their relationship and were soon discovered by Josephe's brother. Don Asteron sends Josephe to a convent, where she and Jeronimo continue their relationship, until one day Josephe gave birth on the steps of the cathedral.


This story is over 5 years old. Dec 2 , am. Herr Kleist is a dead German author, poet, and philosophical essayist of the Romantic persuasion. Most of his characters are engrossing emotional nutcases, and scholars used to get all huffy about his supposed influence on fascist ideology, but they were probably just jealous of his breadth.


Handsome Jeronimo Rugera is hired to tutor the rich heiress, Josephe Asteron. They fall in love, yet the church forbids their relationship, and Josephe is hidden in a convent. When the church discovers she is pregnant, Josephe is sentenced to death by decapitation. Jeronimo tracks her down, yet is jailed before he can rescue her.



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