Irreligious, perverse, and shocking even to this day. Von Kleist's discontent with the social structures of his time—most especially the church, the law, and the vagaries of community life—makes his tales perhaps more politically rich than his contemporary Hoffmann, although both are equally skillful in plumbing the depths of the human psyche when it comes to matters of love, survival, family, and even gender.Von Kleist's style is very proto-modernist: his paragraphs run on for pages with no apparent reason for when they begin and when they end; his pacing is subjectively approached rather than objectively obsessed; and he often begins his stories by telling his reader the endings.Absurdism runs rampant through these pieces. The title story involves a widowed Marquise who takes out an advertisement in the newspaper, searching for the man who apparently—although she has no memory of this—impregnated her. This kind of illogical and paradoxical situation is at the heart of most of von Kleist's work: "The Earthquake in Chile" turns an exiled pair of lovers into heroic figures in an apocalyptic setting ruled by no seeming authority; however, von Kleist seems to suggest that the imposing orders of the church and the law are so pervasive in their hold on mankind that mankind wreaks the same violence if left with no punitive action from high above. This is also the case in "Michael Kohlhaas" where the protagonist takes the law into his own hands after repeated attempts to bring legal action against a man who is terrorizing the community. This kind of Kafkaesque critique of the law is also carried out to the extreme limits of surrealism, rendering reality as nightmarish in much the same way Kafka would do later. Of the shorter pieces collected here, "The Foundling" is the strongest and seems to speak to the same examination of reality versus fantasy in Hoffmann's "The Sandman." However, it is in the longer tales that von Kleist is able to enlarge his canvas and allow his oddly distorted syntax and phrasing to loop in and out of sense and nonsense most elegantly.