Rebecca Moss

I tried to write about Haller’s self discovery by narrowing down to specifics on his relationship to his personalities, and going back out to his broader future prospects.

Synthetic: Steppenwolf

            Harry Haller, the main character in Herman Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, goes through a unique period of self-discovery. This takes place over a brief period of time, but encompasses the concept of learning and moving forward in life in a very unique way. Though it is unclear whether Haller’s manuscript is meant to be taken literally or as a piece of literature in itself, his views on how to adapt to the world around him are very peculiar. Haller is like an insular speck of a man, engrossed with the loathing of technology and other’s interpretations of his beloved Goethe. As he becomes more involved with Hermine, his interests and experiences cause him to swell with an overwhelming amount of worldly pleasures. It is very different living as a functioning and adapting member of society, and Haller says of Hermine, “scarcely was her last word spoken before a layer of unreality and ineffectuality settled over the whole scene” (Hesse p.111). Influenced by Hesse’s attraction to Eastern thought, the novel portrays Haller as a man who is coming to grips with all aspects of himself. These are not limited to just the wolf of the Steppes and the man, but also Hermine.

To take the most out of Steppenwolf as possible, it is interesting to read it as if Haller’s manuscript is a dramatized recounting of Haller becoming one with the world and dying to his lonesome, suicidal self. Hermine is just another part of Haller. The first clue of this is when Harry correctly guesses her name. She gave no sign that she wasn’t just going along with his whimsy, allowing him to project his friend “Herman” onto her. The eastern spirituality of both “Herman” Hesse and Haller, along with their matching initials, gives insight into the character reflecting the author, and thus the Hermine/ Herman/ Harry triangle of sameness can be formed. When Hermine instructs Harry, “you will carry out my command and- kill me” (p. 110), it is as if the suicide Harry was counting down to is really what will be fulfilled.

Though the novel clearly ends with Haller alive and ready to take on his life, mistakes in his past and the tools to move forward in his pocket, killing Hermine was like killing his old self. The “Marvelous taming of the Steppenwolf” (p. 194) described a sort of ying yang with two of Haller’s strongest perceived personalities alternating with their power over each other in the Magic Theater. Haller, hours before, had finally fallen in love with Hermine, and in another chamber, “How One Kills for Love” (203), Harry takes out-of-body experience so seriously that he kills her. Pablo, as Mozart, soon tells Haller that he took the Theater too seriously. This is like how Haller took his life so seriously that he forgot to love himself, counting down the days until his suicide. He didn’t love his life enough to genuinely fight against his instincts and build healthy friendships; little things like household decorations set him off. After he killed Hermine, who represented the version of himself explained in the treatise, he literally closed a chapter of his life. Though readers are left in the dark as to what happens to Haller the writer, his abandoned manuscript tells us that his struggles were left behind as well.

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