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OTHER ELEMENTS

SETTING

Harry tells his landlady that he is visiting the city to take advantage of its libraries and antiquities. The city is both old and modern, with ancient buildings and alleys in the Old Town where Harry does most of his wandering. Hesse's biographers identify it as drawn from both Basel and Zurich, two Swiss cities in which he lived at different times.

The house where Harry takes lodgings is middle-class and immaculately kept. Harry's sitting room is a place of artistic disorder, littered with papers, cigar ash, wine bottles, and well-worn books. A Buddha from Siam (Thailand), a portrait of the Indian pacifist leader Mahatma Gandhi, and watercolors by Harry himself are among its decorations. In the evening he frequents an old-fashioned tavern where lonely men like himself sit, each at his own little table, sipping wine and speaking to no one.


Walking in the Old Town on a wet night, Harry sees a door in an ancient wall that was not there before, a flickering sign advertising MAGIC THEATER-ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY and colored letters reflected on the wet asphalt reading FOR MADMEN ONLY! A peddler directs him to a bar and dance hall, where he meets Hermine. On his rounds of pleasure with Hermine he goes to dances, night clubs, and cafes. The final setting is the hall of the Masked Ball, patterned after the Zurich artists' annual costume ball, which Hesse attended with a party of friends. This changes to the Magic Theater, a place both real and unreal, that resembles the mezzanine floor of a theater, with doors opening into boxes that face the stage. But here, each of the boxes has its own imaginary spectacle at which Harry is both audience and participant.

Interwoven with these external settings, especially the realistic scenes, are the internal settings of Harry's monologues, the streams of memory, emotion, and ideas in which he shares his conscious mind with the reader. The opening pages of his "records" describe such an external-internal state-of-mind setting: the contrast between his tranquil day and his detestation of middle-class tranquility. Another state-of-mind setting occurs as he sits over his meal in the old-fashioned tavern, and a remembered piece of music stirs him to the momentary recovery of an exalted state he calls his "golden track." As you read, watch for other inner settings along Harry's route.

Under Hesse's skillful hand the dividing line between the reality of the Old Town and Harry's fantasy of it is never clear. Can you, reading carefully, spot the devices by which Hesse achieves his effect?

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