These seven stories represent Mann's early writing career and a level of literary quality Mann himself despaired of ever again matching. In these stories he began to grapple with themes that were to recur throughout his work. In Little Herr Friedemann, a character's carefully structured way of life is suddenly threatened by an unexpected sexual passion. In Gladius Dei, puritanical intellect clashes with beauty. In Tristan, Mann presents an ironic and comic account of the tension between an artist and bourgeois society.