Lost Family Essay Research Paper Ellis 1

Lost Family Essay, Research Paper

Ellis 1

Lost Family

In Steven Ozment s Magdalena and Balthasar, one is able to understand the life of a

unique merchant family in sixteenth-century Europe. Magdalena and Balthasar are a

humble couple with extraordinary styles of living. The two are separated due to business

related professions; however, they communicate mainly through letters. Through these

letters they release their beliefs about marriage, parenting, and religion. These beliefs

caught from their letters also allow an in depth look at the customs of their time.

As lovers separated by months at a time due to Balthasar s work as a merchant,

Magdalena and Balthasar wrote letters to retain their relationship. Taking pieces from

these letters, one can formulate their thoughts and their feelings toward each other. Their

relationship was one of respect, love, and compromise. Magdalena and Balthasar s

relationship might have been so strong due to their similar backgrounds. Both were very

close to the other members in their families, involved in private and business aspects.

Both had an impressive pedigree as well. Some family members held various positions on

councils, and their families came from a line of successful merchants in Nuremberg.

Despite Magdalena and Balthasar s ancestry, they were extraordinarily different. They

were not rich, or in high positions; however, they had enough to satisfy their needs. In

comparison to the rest of Nuremberg, Magdalena and Balthasar were an average middle

class merchant family.

Ellis 2

When one looks at Magdalena and Balthasar s marriage, he or she will realize it is

anything but below average. With their present day society, the husband is the dominant

figure and the wife is left with the household duties and children. However, Magdalena

and Balthasar had a relationship based on mutuality. This bond will bring equal

understanding and equal responsibility to both, which will in turn make their love grow.

This growing love is mentioned and expressed in every letter written. Magdalena

expresses her love for Balthasar by adding sentimental materials in her letters. An

example is when she folds flowers from their garden into her letters to him…and on one

occasion she included a string for Balthasar to bind about his wrist as a token of their

friendly bond (28). Balthasar expresses his love for Magdalena primarily through prose.

Every letter he writes to Magdalena, he address her as his honest, good, true, friendly,

dearest, closest bride (28). These words may sound subtle; however, these words are

very passionate and sentimental in their time.

Along with love, Magdalena and Balthasar had a strong foundation of trust. Since

Balthasar was away from home due to his career, Magdalena was to take care of the

affairs at home. In order for Balthasar to have his affairs taken care of, he must trust

someone to do them for him. Balthasar respected and regularly sought Magdalena s

business judgment (75). It is normal for a woman to take care of her husbands affairs

when he is away on business, but it still requires a significant amount of trust. The trust

and love Balthasar had toward his wife is vast; however, he does not totally give himself.

Balthasar retains an amount of authority for himself, and tends to disagree occasionally.

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When they disagree, they tend to compromise, but on the terms that favored the

father (95). Magdalena knew that she was somewhat inferior and not totally equal when

she says, Of course, in this matter it is yours to do as you please (79). The balance

between trust and compromise that Magdalena and Balthasar display, is unique to their

relationship and unique to their present day. This balance will prove to be unique in

relationships in the future, even in twentieth-century society.

In the methods of parenting is where one will find the greatest contrast and similarities

between Magdalena and Balthasar. The difference in parenting mainly comes from their

choice of style. Magdalena is the comforting and understanding parent, while Balthasar

was the strict and disciplinary parent. When Balthasar would leave, he would instruct

Magdalena to tell little Balthasar to be good, for the time being, otherwise I will bring

him nothing (94). Little Balthasar knew that his father had that strict personality, and

understood his fathers demands because little Balthasar also knew his father to be a man

who demanded of others almost as much as he was capable of giving… (92). Magdalena

understands the difficulty of Balthasar s demands and sympathizes with her son, showing

her protective and motherly instincts. Magdalena is advocate and sentinel for her son,

reminding the absent father of the boy s worthiness and encouraging paternal recognition

and praise (92). The most similar parenting style between the two is their love for their

son. The love and support from both Magdalena and Balthasar is extraordinary and adds

to their uniqueness. They provided their son a good education, food, a home, and support

to his needs. Sadly, their son died; however, it had nothing to do with parenting. They

Ellis 4

turned to each other for support and comfort in depressing times. This common love and

loss for their son is very unique for their time, and proves to be unique even in twentieth-

century life.

Religion is a very important aspect of sixteenth-century life and proves to be another

unique characteristic of Magdalena and Balthasar. Magdalena and Balthasar believe God

is involved in everyday life and is in absolute control. They think of God as an

absolutely omnipotent being, who controls human destiny on earth and into

eternity… (144). If someone loses a business deal, gets infected by an illness, or

experiences the death of an only child, Magdalena and Balthasar believe it is an obvious

punishment of God (144). Religion is an essential part of life for Magdalena and

Balthasar and following his control is necessary for their prosperity. They are true

believers who constantly find God at the boundary between success and failure, sickness

and health, life and death-and they hold him responsible for all (143).

Through Magdalena and Balthasar s beliefs and actions in marriage, parenting, and

religion, they are truly ahead of their time. Having this collection of letters illustrates the

life of a sixteenth-century family and portrays the hardships of a medieval time period.

Many can read Magdalena and Balthasar and learn what it takes to love one another, raise

a child, and have religion as a central part of life. This may seem common; however, one

must realize that the letters are from a time when these actions were uncommon.

Magdalena and Balthasar are a twentieth-century family living in a medieval time. These

letters were collected because of that fact and should be read with admiration and



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