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Young Törless (1966) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • At a boarding school in the pre-war Austro-Hungarian Empire, a pair of students torture one of their fellow classmates, Basini, who has been caught stealing money from one of the two. The two decide that rather than turn Basini in to the school authorities, they will punish him themselves and proceed to torture, degrade, and humiliate the boy, with ever-increasing sadistic delight. As each day passes, the two boys are able to justify harsher treatment than previously given. Torless is a passive member of the group but observes rather than participates and frustrates the tormentors by dryly analyzing their behavior.

  • Törless is a student at Prince Eugen Boarding School. In addition to being homesick, he, a cerebral young man, doesn't much like it there, feeling he isn't learning what he needs for his life. In that cerebral state, he is usually the observer rather the participant in many of the activities with his friend, Beineberg, such as their joint visits with Bozena, a local prostitute. He learns that one of his fellow students, Basini, has stolen some money from Beineberg to pay off a debt to another student, Reiting, the theft to which Basini eventually admits. While Törless believes the best course of action is to report Basini to the school authorities for them to deal with him as they see fit, Reiting and Beineberg instead decide to deal with Basini in their own way. Beineberg and Törless talk philosophically about what they will do to Basini, treating it as an emotionless academic exercise. Beineberg in addition wants to see just how far he can push Basini before breaking him. But as Törless watches Beineberg and Reiting exact their form of punishment, each time the torture, both physical and emotional, being more sadistic with no end in sight, Törless comes to a conclusion about not only what he thinks of his fellow classmates, but of the school as a whole.

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