Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

On one level, Rosshalde is a domestic tragedy about incompatibility in which, inevitably, the children must pay the price. Albert’s bitter hatred and coldness and Pierre’s death are the emblems of guilt in a marriage that, for no specific reason, simply did not work.

This domestic drama, however, is merely a vehicle for Hesse’s principal theme. Whether as self-justification for his artistic preoccupation or as genuine philosophic truth about what is demanded of the artist, Hesse’s view that the artist must wrench himself free from marriage, family, and all other bourgeois attachments and give himself completely to his art is the obsessive message of the book. When Veraguth is offered the chance of escape to the East, he feels the surge of a torrent of unconscious and instinctual forces which have long been suppressed.

Although much of the work is filled with Veraguth’s proclaimed love for Pierre, Veraguth seldom seems to have time for the boy except for an absentminded pat on the head when the child comes to his studio. Much more of the novel is filled with what Hesse calls the “bitter joy” of the creator who can find the happiness of freedom only within an iron discipline and can only find fulfillment through an ascetic obedience to his artistic sense of truth. Although he believes that he has bungled his attempts at love and life, Veraguth also believes that he has almost succeeded in giving his art the richness his...

(The entire section is 462 words.)