Journal #3. I didn’t put so much effort in the discussion question and it shows.. does it to you too???

Chapter 4

Whether or not he has parted on good terms with Kunn, Muoth certainly seems to appreciate Kunn’s artistry. While Kunn is staying back at home without clear directions for his future, Muoth sings his song at many concerts and sends him a cheque. Their relationship resumes, when Kunn writes to Muoth to thank him. Then by Muoth’s arrangement, Kunn is invited to the Opera House in R where Muoth sings, as a second violinist. He is suddenly dragged away from his “unprofitable hermit’s existence”, again by Muoth’s favour. Although they feel awkward towards each other, Muoth still seems to care a great deal for Kunn and his future as a musician.

At Muoth’s new place, Kunn meets Muoth’s “latest lady-love”, who again, is a very beautiful and queenly person, just as the one who spoke so defensively of Muoth to Kunn in the past. Muoth, again, takes her for granted, and here Hesse writes another keen description of Kunn’s feelings towards the woman.



The tall lady, who was called Lottie, was friendly towards me

in a gentle way. It was not the first time that a beautiful and

affectionate woman had treated me in this sympathetic and

extremely confiding way. It hurt me this time too, but I now

recognized this recurrent form of behavior and did not take it

too much to heart. Sometimes I have even known women who

have shown special friendship towards me. They all regarded

me as incapable of jealousy as of love. That was there the

undesired sympathy appeared and they confined in me a

half-maternal way.
(p.55)

Such accounts of very personal feelings as this make the story so realistic and credible. Its penetrating honesty and insight direct me to Kunn’s innermost feelings. The tone of the narrator, in this case Kunn, is not at all omniscient but is more of an inviting and confiding tone. This is one of the main factors that make Gertrude so attractive to me. The way Kunn talks about his such status among the females around him, reflects a somewhat repressed resentment as well as a faint echo of jealousy. Having been a fair looking young man from a wealthy family, he has been quite popular among friends until the accident, and having tasted the kind of life, it would be much harder for Kunn to live as a cripple, than for someone who was born disabled. However Kunn seems able to shield his rather inferior feelings in his narration, as well as in his actions towards the people around him.

The following paragraph is especially descriptive of Kunn’s conflicting emotions towards his new lifestyle.



So strange is the human being that in the midst of my

new life and fulfilled wishes, I was sometimes aware of

a slight, fleeting, subconscious desire for solitude, for even

boring and empty days. It then seemed to me that the time

I had spent at home and the dreary uneventful life from which

I was so glad to escape, was something desirable…I felt that

I was not destined for well-being and happiness, but for

weakness and oppression, and that without these shadows

and sacrifices, the creative spring within me was more feeble

and turbid. At first there really was no question of quiet hours

and creative work, and although I was living a full life, I

continually thought I heard the dammed-up spring within me

whisper softly and complainingly.
(p.57)

On one hand, he feels fortunate that he is able to continue to do what he loves and make his living with it. On the other hand, he feels a need to be left alone in solitude, because loneliness is a sort of an inspiration for him. Similar to a newborn chick coming out of the egg, Kunn has to break free from his reclusive tendencies. He must now reach out and mingle with society. These two ideas go hand in hand; since he has gained a favourable reputation among music lovers, he has to abandon his tendency to shy away from people.

Kunn makes friends with a first violinist, a Styrian called Teiser. Ten years older than Kunn, Teiser is “an honest, straightforward man with a gentle, refined face that easily reddened.” He is a very competent musician and although he is no virtuoso, possesses a thorough knowledge of technique. With a very sensitive ear, Teiser knows every overture in detail as well as any conductor where delicacy and brilliant playing were necessary and where the inclusion of an instrument produced a beautiful and original effect. He is also able to play nearly all the instruments, and Kunn asks him questions and learns from him daily. Teiser appreciates Kunn’s composition a great deal, and with the encouragement of such a knowledgeable colleague he can trust, Kunn continues to produce more music, intending to write an opera in the end.

While this new friendship lightens Kunn’s heart, Kunn’s relationship is shaken by a ghastly truth about Muoth. One day, Muoth’s girlfriend Lottie visits Kunn and confides in him that Muoth has beaten her, several times, and now treats her like a mere acquaintance. Kunn wonders if that is what happened with Muoth’s other lovers in the past, including Marian, who so loyally defended Muoth after the quarrel between Muoth and Kunn. Upon hearing this, Kunn is burdened with two kinds of painful emotions: the disappointment and shock from discovering the horrible tendencies of his closest friend, and the exasperation towards the illogical and unfair fact that women are still attracted to Muoth despite his overbearing personality, while Kunn himself is left only with himself.

As Kunn publishes his works one by one, he gradually becomes known among the music-lovers of the town. At a musical gathering one evening, he finally meets Gertrude for the first time. While playing his own trio, he emits his immediate adoration for Gertrude through the music–which is beautifully and thoroughly accounted, with many metaphors and similes, following each step of the performance as it progresses through the three movements of the piece.

My thoughts about the music and Gertrude Imthor flowed

together…¦the music proceeded smoothly and

steadily; it carried me with it along a golden path to Gertrude…

I dedicated my music and my life’s breath, my thoughts and

my heart to her, as an early morning wanderer surrenders

himself to the blue sky and the bright dew on the meadows,

involuntarily and without sacrificing himself.
(p.65)

After the second movement which is his confession, and admission of his longing and lack of his heart’s desire, the third movement comes along, which is intended to represent satisfaction and fulfilment. Kunn notes that as he played the third movement he realized that there was a missing element that made the movement incomplete, for he now knew “exactly how the fulfilment should have sounded, how the radiance and peace should have emerged through the raging storm of sound, revealing the light from behind the heavy clouds.”(p.66) While no one else notices this, Gertrude comes along and tells him the exact thoughts Kunn just has realized. I think that this victorious image that Kunn accounts represents the discovery of his true love, Gertrude. Although he did know that the movement should represent satisfaction and fulfilment, he was not able to make it complete because there was something missing in him: love. Now that he has met Gertrude, a whole new world of creation is open to him. He confesses that “I knew that my springtime had arrived and that after long, wistful, futile wanderings and wintry seasons, my heart was now at rest…I was aware of what I had so often lost, the harmony and inward rhythm of my life traced right back to the legendary years of my childhood. And when I wanted to express this dream-like beauty and sublimity of feeling briefly and call it by a name, then I had to give the name of Gertrude.”(p.68)

This evening’s encounter brings a great deal of change in Kunn. Armed with a brighter prospect of future, Kunn finds people around him more attractive. As well, Kunn’s friendly and grateful emotions for Muoth are also rekindled. He writes another song for Muoth and dedicates it to him. The amiable lyrics of the song describe the two as brothers, with such gentle lines as “By the open window I greeted the night./It embraced me gently, called me brother/And promised me friendship in my sad plight.”(p.69) Of course, “sad plight” means Kunn’s isolated life, and the “I” should mean Kunn, and the “night” which calls him “brother”, Muoth. Despite the general affable tone, to me there seems to be something not so satisfying about the lyrics: the fact that Muoth is compared to “night”. However gently it may have called the narrator of the poem “brother” and promised him friendship, night is still night, bound in its darkness; it may make sincere attempts to lighten the heart of “I” with gentle friendship, yet it is incapable of bringing him complete happiness. This is also in contrast to how Kunn describes Gertrude with. He writes that she is “a brilliant new sun” that illuminates his life(p.69).

In the meantime, Kunn receives a proposal from a poet who has written lyrics for an opera, and his dream to write an opera is now close to coming true. With Gertrude who is a constant source of inspiration to him, Kunn writes the opera with new hopes and aspirations. As the opera is written, each of the two matures, and the relationship between the two becomes closer and stronger. All of this takes place during “the mild spring days”, symbolizing the returning youthfulness and bright prospect for life of Kunn. It also represents the warm and pleasant emotions that grow between Gertrude and Kunn.

However, as they approach the completion of the last act, Kunn’s tone quickly changes to a sinister one, with foreboding lines such as “Times like those do not last long”; “I rflected upon the glorious days which I felt were already changing, and knew that inevitably different, clouded days were on the way”(p.75). Finally, when Kunn tells Gertrude that the male part will be sung by Heinrich Muoth, Gertrude directly says that she does not like him, indicating her previous encounter with Muoth and having been acquainted enough with him to conclude that she does not like him. The chapter ends with a fatally decisive statement: “A stranger had already come between us.”

Question 3: Kunn compares Muoth to the “night” in a song which he dedicates to Muoth, and Gertrude to the “blinding sun”. What is the significance of these two contrasting similes?

In the lyrics of the song, Muoth is compared to night that calls the narrator “brother”. Although portrayed as an obviously affectionate character, the night is still the symbol of the darkness, solitude and sorrow; Muoth initiates their friendship, and shows affection towards Kunn on many occasions. His initial darkness, however, makes their relationship falter, leaving Kunn in discontent and unhappiness each time. Gertrude, on the other hand, is like the “blinding sun” to Kunn, in that the feeling of love she brings to Kunn opens a new path to creation of music. She also adds a soft and light dimension to Kunn’s life, which changes Kunn himself a great deal.

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