In this novel Mann captures the oppressive atmosphere of Nazi Germany while telling a satiric story about the rise to power of one individual. The man in question is Hendrik Hofgen, a character actor who in his own life plays a bizarre part in the elite circle of the Third Reich. Hofgen is publicly a revolutionary, but secretly he is a man driven by an obsessive need for power and fame. Although he benefits from the prestige of being married to the daughter of an eminent politician, he endangers his rise in Nazi society. But then his brilliant success as Mephisto in Faust changes his fortune again.