In 1835, the family of Buddenbrokes, highly revered in the small German merchant city of Marienkirche, moved to a new house on Mengstraße, recently acquired by the head of the firm “Johann Buddenbroke”. The family consists of the old Johann Buddenbrock, his wife, their son Johann, daughter-in-law Elizabeth and grandchildren: ten-year-old Thomas, eight-year-old Antony – Tony – and seven-year-old Christian. With them live still contemporaries Toni Klotilda, the offspring of the poor family line, and governess Ida Yungman, who served with them for so long that it is considered almost a member of the family.
But about the firstborn of Johann Buddenbrock, Sr., Gortholde, who lives on the Breitenstrasse, the family is trying not to mention: he committed a misalliance,
Two and a half years later, the house of Buddenbrokers comes to joy: Elizabeth is born the daughter of Clara. The happy father solemnly records this event in a notebook with a gold edge, begun by his grandfather and containing a long genealogy of the Buddenbrock family and personal records of the next head of the family.
And three and a half years later, the old Madame Buddenbroke dies. After that, her husband retires from business, passing the management of the company to his son. And soon he also dies. Having met Gortholm at the grave of his father, Johann firmly denies his inheritance: before the debt that imposes on him the title of head of the firm, all other feelings should be silenced. But when Gorthold liquidates his shop and retires to rest, he and his three daughters are happily taken to the bosom of the family.
In the same year, Tom enters into his father’s business. Tony, confident in the power of the Buddenbrokes and accordingly in their own impunity, often upsets her parents with her pranks, and therefore she is sent to the boarding house of Zazemi Weichbrodt.
Tony is already eighteen years old, when Mr. Grünlich, a businessman from Hamburg, completely captivating her parents, makes her an offer. He does not like Tony, but neither his parents nor he himself accepts her refusal and insist on marriage. In the end, the girl is sent to Travemunde, to the sea: let her come to her senses, reflect and make the best decision. Settle it decided in the house of the old pilot Schwarzkopf.
The son of the pilot, Morgen, often spends time with Tony. Confident intimacy arises between them, and young people soon confess to each other in love. However, after returning home, Tony accidentally stumbles on a family notebook with a gold edge, reads. and suddenly realizes that she, Antonia Buddenbroke, is the link of a single chain and, since birth, is called upon to promote the exaltation of her kind. He grabbed his pen with a gusto. Tony writes one more line into the notebook – about his own betrothal with Mr. Grünlich.
Tony is not the only one who goes against the dictates of the heart: Tom also has to leave his beloved, the saleswoman of the flower shop.
Family life Grunlichov is not very successful: Grunlich almost does not pay attention to his wife, tries to limit her expenses. And four years later it turns out that he is bankrupt: it could have happened before, not by the sum he gets Tony with her dowry and create the impression that she is working with her father-in-law’s firm, Johann Buddenbroke refuses to help the son-in-law; he dissolves Tony’s marriage and takes her along with her daughter Erica to herself.
In 1855 Johann Buddenbrock dies. Supremacy in the firm actually goes to Thomas, although at his suggestion, his uncle Gorthold holds a fictitious position. Oh, Tom is a serious young man, who knows how to keep up appearances and who has a business sense! But the Christian, although he spent eight years in foreign lands, studying office work, does not show labor zeal and instead of compulsory sitting in the office of the family firm spends his time in the club and the theater.
Meanwhile, Clara is nineteen years old; she is so serious and god-fearing that it is difficult to marry her otherwise than as a person of spiritual rank, so Elizabeth Buddenbroke without thinking agrees to the marriage of her daughter with the pastor Tiburtius. Tom, to whom, after Gorthold’s death passes the title of head of the family and the position of the head of the firm, also agrees, but with one condition: if the mother allows him to marry Gerda Arnoldsen, Tony’s friend at the boarding house, he loves her, and, his future father-in-law is a millionaire.
Both engagements are celebrated in a close family circle: besides the relatives of the Buddenbrok, including the daughters of Gorthold – three old maidens with Breitenstraße and Clotilde, there are only Tiburtius, the Arnoldsen family and an old friend of the house Zazemi Weichbrodt. Tony acquaints everyone with the history of the Buddenbrook family, reading out the family notebook. Soon there will be two weddings.