Summary and Analysis Part 3: Chapter 5



Heyst and Lena start home. They pass the spot where they must view the sea, "the floating abyss of emptiness," in the "tragic brutality of the light." Lena longs for the friendly night. She knows now the fullness of her love for Heyst. There can never be another like him in all the world. She feels this emotion with elation and uneasiness, with pride and "a peculiar sinking of the heart."

They come in sight of the blackened clearing and fancy they see Wang. The table is laid and they sit down to eat in the silence of a great heat, "pregnant with fatal issues."

Lena goes to rest. Heyst takes down one of his father's books and sits under his father's portrait. He is still revolted by the thought of Schomberg's slander. He is tempted to spit but controls himself and opens the book. His eye falls on these words: ". . . of the stratagems of life, the most cruel is the consolation of love — the most subtle, too; for the desire is a bed of dreams."

Heyst imagines his father's voice speaking to him. Then Lena comes out and Heyst is surprised to see how tired she looks. He blames himself for taking her on so long a walk. She says suddenly, "You should try to love me."

Heyst realizes that he has never told her that he loves her. He does not tell her now. He bides behind his habitual, playful courtesy. Yet Heyst is softening. His "cherished negations" are falling away. Lena is terrified by his talk and the realization that she loves him more now than ever before. He urges her to dismiss all thought of Schomberg's talk about Morrison. He takes her in his arms and she responds eagerly, then suddenly disengages herself and bolts from the room. She has seen Wang.


The portrait of Heyst's father is mentioned many times in this last section of the book, but in no place does it have a sharper symbolic significance than in this chapter. Heyst sits under the portrait to read his father's diatribe against love. The next moment, Lena appears and Heyst feels again the pull of her allurements. Thus the struggle is joined in the mind and heart of Axel Heyst.

Lena knows the only cure for Heyst's difficulty: "You should try to love me."

Heyst's assurance that "nothing can break in on us here" is one of the most ironical statements in the book. All hell is about to break in on them.