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THE MASKED BALL
Harry has dinner at the old-fashioned tavern, a shrine to his former lonely life. To pass the hours until it is time to go to the ball, he drops in on a movie. It turns out to be the Old Testament epic of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt.
Historical spectacles were among the great achievements of the early
silent movies, beginning with D. W. Griffith's Intolerance in 1915. The
film Harry saw and enjoyed may have been Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments
of 1923. Considering Hesse's frequently expressed bias against Americans
and American culture, he gives the film, as seen through Harry Haller's
eyes, a favorable review here.
Shy and nervous, wearing evening dress rather than a costume, Harry arrives at the ball. He wanders miserably among the revelers, deafened by the noise, lonely in the crowd. Finding no one he knows, he heads for the cloakroom, but he has mislaid the check for his coat. A playful "devil" hands him one, which turns out to be an announcement of the Magic Theater. It says, as before, FOR MADMEN ONLY and NOT FOR EVERYBODY, but adds, PRICE OF ADMITTANCE YOUR MIND and, in a corner, HERMINE IS IN HELL.
Suddenly revived, Harry turns back into the throng, heading for the lower floor decorated as "hell." He finds Maria in Spanish costume and they dance past Pablo who is leading the dance band. He hurries on, to find not Hermine but Herman, the friend of his youth, who turns out to be Hermine dressed as a boy. With Herman/Hermine as his male companion and rival, Harry plunges into the ball. He experiences the intoxicating pleasure of being part of a festive crowd.
People are already leaving when Harry spots a Pierrette, a girl dressed as a clown with a white mask. It is Hermine in a change of costume. Harry is now truly in love with her. She asks, "Are you ready?" Harry is ready. He hears the eerie, icy laughter of the Immortals.