Although Heyst finds island life fascinating, he is generally disenchanted with it, even though he rarely feels lonely. He often sits in the main room of his house, under a picture of his father–a misanthrope and famous writer–and reflects.
Into this deserted wilderness Heyst brings Alma (whom he renames Lena), a women he has rescued from an obsessive-compulsive hotel owner at the nearest civilized island, three days journey by boat. In his sitting room, Heyst assures Lena that nothing can break in on them there.
Schomberg’s Hotel. Hotel in Sourabaya owned by Wilhelm Schomberg, who is obsessed with controlling Lena, one of the eighteen women in his hotel concert hall. Desperate to escape the hotel, Lena persuades Heyst to take her with him after a concert.
Other residents of the hotel include two very suspicious characters, Mr. Jones and Martin Ricardo, who gamble in the hotel’s shabby gaming room. These desperadoes brag to Schomberg about their adventures in Bangkok, Manila, Colombia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. When these men tell Schomberg they intend to stay at the hotel for a month, he shows displeasure and is threatened by Jones. Nevertheless, Schomberg persuades the men to attempt to retrieve Lena and get revenge on Heyst by telling them a false story about a fortune that Heyst has hidden on the island.
Wang’s hut. Walled quarters of Heyst’s servant Wang, who retires to his hut at night and contentedly tends his vegetable garden by day. Heyst never enters the hut or its grounds. After Wang takes a village woman for a wife, she never emerges from this island of sanity, except to flee with Wang to her home village on the opposite side of the island when the desperadoes land on the island. The path to the woman’s village is strewn with logs on the trail as a warning to the outside world to keep away.
Heyst’s house. After Lena is shot by the invading desperadoes, Heyst takes her to his bed to die as his house catches fire. There Heyst apparently chooses to die with Lena, who is happy finally to be loved and free from Schomberg. Heyst, too, is finally free from a life of scorn. The lovers are both reduced to ashes, but ashes are as pure as their love. The island, too, is now purified from the influx of civilization. In this there may be victory.