Steppenwolf Essay, Research Paper
Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse, is the story of a middle-aged man, who has divided himself into two beings: a civilized man, and a wolf-man, as a way of explaining his wretchedness. As a man, Harry Haller “loves all the things of Emil Sinclair’s first world, order and cleanliness, poetry and music” (Discovering Authors: Hermann Hesse 2). Haller is continually moving, but always occupies suites in houses with “a smell of cleanliness and good order, of comfort and respectability” (Steppenwolf 6). Whereas the savage wolf-man loves Emil’s second world, the world of darkness. He prefers open spaces and lawlessness. For him bourgeois civilization and all its foolishness are a great joke. Throughout the story we come to see that Haller allows his imagination full play, and “his journal is a sort of wish-dream diary. He is a man-on-his-own, living in rooms with his books and his gramophone” (Hesse 1). In his younger years he was considered to be a power a self-realizer, but now in his late forties, the moods of insight have stopped coming and there is only self-dissatisfaction. We discover this when Hesse writes, “he belonged with the suicides” (51). “Haller appointed his fiftieth birthday as the day on which he might allow himself to take his own life relying on his razor, he would take leave of all his pains” (52). One particular evening, Haller sees a mysterious Gothic arch in the middle of a old stone wall. Above this arch there was a sign that read, “Magic Theatre Entrance Not For Everybody; For Madmen Only” (Steppenwolf 34). We do not see the significance of this sign until later in the novel. At first Harry thinks the sign is rather odd, but is nothing more than that. On his way home he sees a man with a sandwich board and a tray of Old Moore’s Almanacs. Haller calls out to the man so he would be able to read the sign “Anarchist Evening Entertainment Magic Theatre Entrance Not For Everybody” (42). He tries to get some information from the man but is only handed a book called, A Treatise on the Steppenwolf. Not for Everybody. When he arrives home he takes out the book and begins to read it’s context. We find out that Haller was actually the one who had written the book, and as he reads it “certain convictions formulate themselves, about himself and about the Outsider generally” (Hesse 1). Harry has a constant inner quarrel between the man, and wolf-man. There are sometimes, that hey make peace. “He has deliberately cultivated his two opposing natures until the conflict threatens to tear him in two, for he knows that when he has achieved the secret of permanently reconciling them, he will live at a level of intensity unknown to the bourgeois It is the sign of the greatness” (Hesse 2). Haller has to learn how to have his two ‘personalities’ be at peace constantly, and then he will be superior to the bourgeois.
When he goes to a tavern far from his home, he meets a women named Hermine. Haller is charmed by her. He was convinced that he needed her, for “she took me under her wing just as I needed, and mocked me, too, just as I needed” (Steppenwolf 96). Hermine ordered Haller around like a mother does her child, and this is what he wanted, for it was easily done. He told her that he could not go home and asked if he could stay there with her, she tells him that he can stay as long as he likes. “Perhaps, my friend, I could tell you, too, what is that’s waiting for you at home and what you dread so much. But you know that for yourself” (Steppenwolf 97). Through Haller’s actions Hermine can tell that he is upset for a good reason, for Haller had thought about slashing his throat many times that night. “I felt the dread of all dreads, the fear of death. Yes, I was horribly afraid of death” (Steppenwolf 94). Harry does not want to die, but feels he has to if he ever wants to be rid of the pain. Before he had gotten to the tavern he had stopped at little shops, “running in a circle around the goal, around the razor, around death” (Steppenwolf 94). Hermine introduces Harry to Pablo, and Maria. Together they go to Pablo’s house of mirrors. Haller discovers that Hermine and Pablo are lovers. Hermine had a darkly bruised mark beneath her left breast. “There, where the mark was, I plunged in my knife to the hilt” (Steppenwolf 236). Harry covers her wound with a rug, and watches as Pablo get s up and leaves the room where he and Hermine had made love, where Harry had found them. “Her wish was fulfilled. Before she had ever been mine, I had killed my love” (Steppenwolf 237). Harry is taken to a court where there was a guillotine standing. The public prosecutor read an official document, saying, “there stands before you Harry Haller, accused and found guilty of the willful misuse of our magic theatre Wherefore we condemn Haller to eternal life and we suspend for twelve hours his permit to enter our theatre. The penalty of being laughed out of court may not be remitted ” (Steppenwolf 243). This was Haller’s penalty for the murder of Hermine, and for the misuse of the Magic Theatre. An image of Mozart is seen, but soon turns into Pablo. Pablo tells Harry that he had disappointed him, then he takes Hermine in his hand, “who shrank in his ringers to the dimensions of a toy-figure” (Steppenwolf 245) and put her in the very same waistcoat-pocket from which he had taken the cigarette he had offered to Harry. Harry realizes that one day he would learn how to laugh, Pablo and Mozart would be waiting for him when he did. He had finally found some of the necessary courage to face the path that would lead him from the Outsider’s miseries.