Ernst is full of creative and clever ideas, from roping a sea turtle to tow them to shore, to the ‘fresh water delivery system’ he invents for their tree house. Something of an intellectual, he is a major bookworm and tries to impress Roberta by all the various things he knows and has studied about. He shows his tendency toward romantic but ‘useless’ ideas-generation immediately after they are shipwrecked, when he talks about all the things he’d like to take out of the captain’s cabin, including the pipe organ (which they do later transport, for his mother). He’s quite eager to travel off to college, since he never imagined such a thing, and leave behind the island and his family, to pursue a higher education. Ernst naturally figures out how things work and is a notable inventor, who comes up with a lot of ways to make their home better, but can also be emotionally reactive and petulant under stress. He’s resentful of Roberta and Fritz’ time together and can become quarrelsome. He tries his best to impress her, by being helpful, generous, and appealing to her through a “ridiculous” hat he made.

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Ernst cares very much how others see him, and is hard-working, self-confident, and industrious. He really hates to be made fun of and will assert himself defiantly against his brother when Fritz insults him. He assumes he can win Roberta over through his impressive knowledge of history, science, literature, and suchlike, but also in his general helpfulness and generosity. He even weaves a dignified hat he knows will please her, which will give her a ‘taste of home.’ Though initially resentful of her paying more attention to Fritz than to him, Ernst does give up gracefully when he sees he hasn’t won the fair maiden, and lets them be happy together.