The action is set in a small German town in the 1890s where adolescent boys and girls grope their way towards knowledge and maturity against the blocks set up by parents and teachers in the name of 'morality'. Melchior, fearless in his pursuit of the truth, manages to retain his freedom of spirit, but his friends are not so lucky or so strong. Wedekind's theme that ignorance is the greatest threat to innocence is presented with humour, lyricism and realism, as he follows his adult characters from the familiar to the grotesque and his adolescent characters from the rivalry of the schoolroom to the double-edged welcome of the grave.
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