Baron Axel Heyst
Baron Axel Heyst, a man who has deliberately attempted to stand aloof from life, an effort that has made him a pathetic man if not a tragic one. He is innately and fastidiously virtuous, but by detaching himself from the entanglements and consequences of experience he has made himself incapable of coping with evil. Consequently, when he is forced to defend Lena, the only person he has ever dared or tried to love, he fails miserably and destroys himself. He is characterized aptly by epithets: His apparent willingness to drift forever within a “magic circle” in the East Indies earns him the name “Enchanted Heyst”; his naïve optimism, the “Utopist”; his attempt to establish organized trade in the islands, “the Enemy”; his isolated retirement on Samburan, “the Hermit”; and his alleged exploitation of Morrison, his former partner, “the Spider.” After Lena dies as the result of a wound inflicted by Mr. Jones, Heyst sets fire to his bungalow and burns himself and her body.
Lena, the new name Heyst gives to Alma, a young entertainer in Zangiacomo’s orchestra, after he meets her while she is performing at Wilhelm Schomberg’s hotel in Sourabaya. He quixotically thinks that the new name symbolizes her break with her sordid past. It is to Lena that the “victory” of the title applies. Realizing that Heyst is completely incapable of meeting evil with action, she resolves, out of love and gratitude, to save him, if necessary by committing murder. She is a foil to Heyst in that she has been forced since childhood to confront and resist the evil in life, and she is prepared, instinctively, to challenge and defeat it. Mr. Jones shoots Lena when he finds her and Martin Ricardo together in Heyst’s bungalow.
Mr. Jones, “a gentleman at large” who embodies the evil intelligence and calculating wickedness that threaten and finally destroy Heyst. Outlawed by his perversity from the genteel society of which...
(The entire section is 830 words.)