Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Section 6: The Masked Ball
("In the short interval...I was ready")
Haller finds momentary happiness with Maria and feels that this brief love affair is a prelude to something better; but he still longs for some kind of greater fulfillment. On the day before the annual Masked Ball, he tells Hermine that Maria gives him contentment, but with Hermine, he feels joy and harmony. He thinks about the fact that Hermine has held Maria in her arms, much like he has held her. He also thinks about the possibility of a person having a thousand souls. Haller then writes a poem about those who have understood eternity and attained immortality.
Haller, who has become proficient in dancing, feels confident about going to the masked ball, even though he has decided not to go in costume. He asks Maria to go with him and be his partner, but she says she is going with someone else. Haller is disappointed that he has to attend the festivities alone, but he still looks forward to seeing Hermine there, for she will not reveal what costume she is going to wear. Haller spends the night before the ball with Maria. It is a strange night, filled with the sweetness of love and a dread of death. For some reason, he again feels like he is suffocating, and he knows that suffocation is a cruel death.
Before going to the ball, Haller visits his favorite drinking place, "The Steel Helmet," for the last time. He is peaceful and sentimental there, far removed from the modern, mechanized culture that he hates. When he arrives at the ball, he feels like an alien amidst the noisy festivities. Then a clown comes up to him and hands him a message. It reads, "Hermine is in Hell." The note seems to change his mood and he begins to dance.
After giving Maria a farewell kiss, Haller goes to a downstairs room, which is decorated as Hell. There he finds Hermine, dressed in costume as a young man. He feels that he is in love with her as she dances around him. Suddenly Hermine disappears and reappears in a new costume of a female clown. She and Haller continue to dance, kissing passionately as they move. It becomes their nuptial dance of love.
Although Haller succumbs to the sensual pleasures that Maria offers him, he knows that he is not really happy with her; he longs for some greater fulfillment. On the day before the Masked Ball, he tells Hermine that Maria only brings him contentment; in contrast, he feels joy and harmony when he is with Hermine.
Haller asks Maria to go to the ball with him, but she has accepted another invitation. He still spends the night before the ball with her; it will be the last time. He goes to the festivities alone, not wearing a costume. It is as if he wants his true self to emerge. During the ball, he is given a message that "Hermine is in Hell." It turns out that hell is a room downstairs, decorated to be like the underworld. Haller finds Hermine there, dressed as a young man. As he dances with her, he falls in love, and they kiss passionately. The dance becomes a symbol of their spiritual love and marriage. Haller feels himself dissolving into her being and experiencing true joy; it is like no other experience he has had during his fifty years of existence.
During their dancing, Hermine asks Harry if he is ready. Harry nods in reply. He is now prepared to enter the world of Pablo's Magic Theatre.