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With characteristic insight and penetration, Hermann Hesse explores the destructive nature of human love. As a sensitive, disabled young composer, the narrator is drawn to a sensual singer named Gertrude through their mutual love of music. Gradually he becomes engulfed by an enduring and hopeless passion for her but, because of his fear of arousing sympathy instead of passion, he loses her. When Gertrude marries his friend, a famous singer, he is compelled to stand by and watch passively as their obsessive relationship disintegrates into tragedy.