Steppenwolf Hermann Hesse Essay

Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf

An Introduction
by Chris Mack

September 8, 2012

It is a simple truism that every work of fiction is, to some extent, autobiographical. After all, imagination must somehow be rooted in experience. For the German author Hermann Hesse, there was often only the thinnest of veils separating his life from his art. Virtually every main character created by Hesse is a version of himself. Steppenwolf is no exception. Harry Haller is but one of many Hesse characters with obvious autonames; the name Hermann and the Kafkaesque H. H. appeared in other novels.

Hess was 49 when he wrote Steppenwolf, living in a rented flat in Zurich. He was depressed and often ill, suffering from the recent estrangement from his second wife, Ruth (who appears in Steppenwolf as “Erica”). He spent many nights drinking, learned to dance, and attended an artists’ masked ball during this time. Every aspect of the outer journey of Harry Haller mirrors Hermann Hesse’s life at the time.

But the more important journey of the Steppenwolf is inward, and here too the novel is autobiographical. Hesse was rarely happy during his life, attempted suicide as a teenager before dropping out of high school, and struggled with depression and serious physical ailments his whole life. He was never one to seek a happy median between extremes, opting instead for the agonizing superposition of poles: a wanderer craving stability, a hermit and rebel wanting acceptance, light and dark, the sensual intellectual, man and wolf.

In Hesse’s early work these dual natures provided the conflicts of his novels. Often the two main characters were just two aspects of himself. During World War I Hesse underwent Jungian psychoanalysis to combat his depression. These experiences resulted in a dramatic shift inward in his art, which afterward incorporated dreams and symbols that reflected both on the characters of the novel and on society as a whole. Hesse also became fascinated with Eastern thought. His parent and grandfather had been missionaries in India and he grew up in a loving but strict and religious home that did not respect the value of art.

All of these influences permeated his work between the world wars: Demain (1919), Siddhartha (1922), and Steppenwolf (1927) being the most significant. These works were also experimental, especially Steppenwolf (which was not well received). His critics called it pornographic, and it was especially despised by German nationalists.

The novel is written in three voices. First, we are introduced to Harry by an outsider, the nephew of his landlady, the antithesis of the Steppenwolf who nonetheless grasps the bigger picture: that the struggles of the Steppenwolf are important because they are the struggles of the modern world. This unnamed narrator finds a manuscript authored by our hero and presents it to the reader (a trick first employed by Hesse in his first work of prose, the novella Herman Lauscher, 1901). The third voice is the unknown author of the “Treatise of the Steppenwolf”, a section of the book that was originally printed with different paper and type and separated by yellow sheets to look like a pamphlet sewn into pages of the book. This treatise presents an analytical look at the Steppenwolf phenomenon, as if written by Carl Jung for both Harry Haller and for modern man as a whole.

The inner journey of Harry Haller begins with music, one of the main themes of the book. Merely contemplating the music of an immortal like Mozart reveals a “golden track” to the mind of God. Hesse privately described this novel as structured like a sonata. Latter, Harry meets one of his reflections, the female doppelganger Hermine, who even looks like Harry’s boyhood friend “Hermann”. Mirrors, reflecting different aspects of a multiple personality, are another major theme.

Eventually, Harry is able to enter the Magic Theater, Entrance Not for Everyone, For Madmen Only. Here, the full multiplicity of his inner self is revealed, dreamlike and full of symbols waiting to be analyzed. Can one integrate the opposing influences of intellect and sense, of man and wolf? Is humor our bridge between them? What role do the immortals play?

Well my friends, my dispirited Steppenwolves, let us sip a little heart and courage from our glasses, and enter the Magic Theater – the Theater of the Mind.

Chris Mack is a writer in Austin, Texas.

© Copyright 2012, Chris Mack.

More essays...


The Significance of the Epiphany in Der Steppenwolf

Kurt J. Fickert, Wittenberg University, Ohio

In its literary dimension, the term "epiphany" refers to an occasion on which a character in a work of fiction is suddenly overtaken by a moment of insight into the tenor of his or her life. Originally the word had a religious connotation, since it refers to the experience of the biblical wise men who traveled to Bethlehem under the guidance of a bright star to bear witness to a miraculous birth. This element of a penumbra heightens the symbolic value of the epiphany in its figurative sense. A contemporary of Hermann Hesse, James Joyce made particular use of the epiphany as a poetic device in his early work. Striking examples appear in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and in the prose poems he wrote to demonstrate the momentary illumination of the thoughts and commonplace objects that excited him. There is no direct evidence that Hermann Hesse knew Joyce, although Joyce lived for a time and died (in 1941) in Zürich, a city quite familiar to Hesse and a primary location in the Steppenwolf's search for an identity. There is every reason to suppose, however, that Hesse would have been aware of, if not closely acquainted with, Joyce's linguistically challenging work. It is also likely that he was familiar with Joyce's concept of the role of the artist-writer in society, a subject of paramount interest to both writers. [1] Within this frame of reference, this essay explores Hesse's use of the epiphany as a prototype in his most celebrated novel, Der Steppenwolf (1927), and will establish his expansion of its significance in a literary text. [2]

Critics have paid markedly little attention to the subject of the moment of epiphany as Hesse puts it to use in his fiction; at the same time, they have repeatedly taken note of his practice of embellishing his realistic accounts with fantastic events and magical transformations. These occur with some frequency throughout Hesse's work‚ including the disappearance of Hermann Lauscher in the novel Hinterlassene Schriften von Hermann Lauscher (Hermann Lauscher's Legacy of his Writings, 1901) and of Hermann Hesse himself in the Kurzgefaßter Lebenslauf (Concise Autobiography, 1924). Joseph Milek, in Hermann Hesse: Life and Art, explores the concept of the epiphany to a limited extent but holds it to be an aspect of the concept of grace. Milek postulates Hesse's propensity, acquired as a child raised in a Protestant household, to associate Christ's birth with God's gift of grace rather than with an occasion for the presentation of gifts. [3] Through such an overlapping of general and private symbolism, Hesse uses the literary device of the epiphany to describe effectively the turmoil of his life and times and the transcendence beyond the resultant despair. It is this theme which underlies his fiction.

In his Understanding Hermann Hesse, Lewis W. Tusken has given the epiphany motif in Der Steppenwolf another designation, proposing that "Harry labels these magic moments Gottesspuren (traces of God)-Jung's 'flashes of insight.'" [4] Oskar Seidlin leaves aside such religious and psychological connotations and summarizes Hesse's literary search for his selfhood in these terms: "[H]is entire work seems an endless recording of the process of awakening" (my emphasis). [5] Ralph Freedman uses the philosophic concept of unio mystica to characterize the moment of sudden insight that overwhelms the protagonist in stories dealing with the experience of an epiphany. [6] In accord with Freedman, David G. Richards describes the Steppenwolf's progress toward experiencing a corona-embellished rebirth in these words: "Haller's despair and thoughts of suicide may be seen as manifestations of this stage ('the dark night of the soul') which generally precedes the mystical experience of illumination (the unio mystica)." [7]

Yet, critics of Der Steppenwolf have largely neglected to examine the exact nature of this moment of enlightenment in the novel. It occurs when the protagonist, a disillusioned writer and inveterate member of the bourgeoisie, experiences, like the reformer Martin Luther, a confrontation with the equivalent of a symbolic lightning storm, namely, the moment of epiphany, which impels him to pursue his destiny. This event takes place only after Hesse has provided two descriptions, one magnifying the other, of Harry Haller's desperate state of mind. The book's first section is ostensibly the work of a first-person narrator, the landlady's observant, yet dispassionate, nephew. He gives an objective report about Haller's life of social isolation and personal wretchedness in a comfortable and orderly rooming house. The narrator has generously undertaken to prepare for publication the autobiographical papers Haller has left behind upon vanishing from his rooms. The second description is Harry's first-person narrative covering recent events in his life and their miseries.

The chief factor in Harry's recollections is his elucidation of the concept of "the Steppenwolf," as he has come to call himself. He recognizes a part of himself to be an antagonist, rebelling against the social constraints imposed on him by the bourgeois world into which he was born. He illustrates one of his exhibitions of self-destructive rage by portraying a visit he has made to the home of a professor, an old friend, whom he has just met again after a long period of separation. Harry finds himself incapable of communicating with his host and hostess and flees from their apartment after having wounded the feelings of the professor's wife. He has made scathing comments on her treasured portrait of Goethe, which, in Haller's view, depicts the German genius as a bourgeois idol. In recognition of his inability to conceal his hostility toward the superficiality of social norms, he condemns himself to living the life of an outcast and proclaims himself an "outsider" (Hesse uses the English word in his German text).

Under these circumstances, Harry is confined to roaming only ill-lighted and for the most part deserted city streets, while on occasion breaking up this routine with a visit to some dingy tavern where he orders a bottle of wine. On one of these nocturnal journeys, he experiences an epiphany that leads him to believe in the possibility of transforming his life into one in which he can achieve spiritual wholesomeness. The possibility of this transformation appears to him in the form of a fleeting vision. He glimpses a sealed-shut doorway with a pointed arch, now a part of a wall, at the opposite ends of which lie a church (symbolizing eternity) and a hospital (symbolizing life's fragility and brevity) concealed in darkness. The moving lighted letters of a sign above the portal illuminate the scene; the words become legible to Harry momentarily. They proclaim: "Magic Theater/ Admittance not for everyone/-not for everyone" (215). The message bewilders Haller; when his eyes look down at the mirroring surface of the street, darkened by rain, he sees the fading reflection of the advertisement's last words: "Only - for - the - Mad!" [8] Harry cannot immediately fathom the meaning of this pseudo-slogan that seems to apply to him and his tormented life, but he suspects that his discovery of the hidden doorway will lead him to pursue a path into the inner depths of his being.

After Hesse's death (in 1962) an untitled manuscript was discovered among his papers and subsequently published in Materialien zu Hermann Hesses "Der Steppenwolf," which can readily be looked upon as an earlier version of this episode. [9] It tells the story of a writer, who, while on a journey, discovers in a way-station town a remarkable, forest-like garden, enclosed within a wall. Nearby there is a restaurant in which he has a conversation with a mysterious old man. The author gives him the name "Sparrow Hawk" (a prominent image in Hesse's Demian, 1919). The stranger provides the traveler with sage advice: "Make sure you act on your every wish [desire]." Later, the writer fulfills this prescription: wanting to see the garden, he climbs, with some effort, over the wall. He finds himself in a timeless world (Urwelt), a world of chaos, where wild delights and dismal fears contend with one another. Before the manuscript breaks off, the writer reveals that he believes the garden to be his own soul. As he listens to a piano being played, he concludes that for him every musical sound is a world in itself, is God himself. The supposition that the magic garden became, in Steppenwolf, the Magic Theater lies close at hand. This earlier draft is significant in that it provides a contrast to the final version, especially in regard to the omission of the scene of the epiphany and the entire section devoted to the Magic Theater. In comparing the neo-romantic writing in this fragment with the masterfully subtle writing in the finished novel, one cannot but agree with Thomas Mann's evaluation that "Der Steppenwolf [is] no less daring as an experimental novel than James Joyce's Ulysses [1922] and André Gide's Les Faux-Monnayeurs [1926]." [10]

After Harry leaves the forest-like garden, where he has entered into the farther reaches of his mind or consciousness, the Steppenwolf's instinct is to seek out, in a reflex action, the thriving nightlife of the city. However, his thoughts remain focused on the promise of an incipient enlightenment that his epiphany has afforded him. He asks himself: "And who sought beyond the ruins of his life its disintegrating meaning, endured the seemingly senseless, experienced the seemingly irrational, hoped covertly to find nevertheless in an ultimate insane chaos revelation and the nearness of God?" (219). Since the question has only one answer-the Steppenwolf-Haller is drawn back to the environs where the letters of the advertising sign had lit up the emptiness. Although only the darkness remains, Harry is light of heart. For his hopefulness he is rewarded by the appearance of a shadowy figure. It cannot be refuted that Harry's encounter with such denizens of the night represents reinforcing aspects of Harry's capability to go on with his soul searching. The man who is about to rush past him on the dark street appears to be a vendor, bearing a tray of brochures. In response to Haller's request, he is provided with one of these before the tout vanishes behind a door. It is, as he discovers back in his room, a treatise on the subject of the Steppenwolf written by members of a group joined together by their interest in the species.

Readers of the first edition of Der Steppenwolf were given the opportunity to consider the realistic aspects of the novel, since this part of the book was printed within inserted colored cover pages and was separately paginated. (It is now distinguished from the rest of the text merely by italicized type.) However, the symbolic overtones of this pamphlet are indeed of special significance. In an important critical appraisal of Hesse's work, Theodore Ziolkowski analyzes the form of Der Steppenwolf on the basis of a statement in one of the author's letters, dated 13 November 1930. [11] Plainly, it consists of a third-person (in a figurative sense) introductory passage, a first-person narrative in two parts, and the interpolated tractate. Subsequently, Ziolkowski determines that the text takes the form of a sonata, with its repetitions and inversions. An equally valid conclusion about the book's format can be reached by considering its tripartite nature: an introduction to the Steppenwolf's personal revelations; the tractate; then prologue to, and elaboration of, the Magic Theater episode. This tripling of viewpoints can also be regarded as a part of a consecutive mirroring that indeed dominates the symbolism of the entire story. Each section serves to reflect and simultaneously magnify the other; none provides contrast. In the same way, the short-lived epiphany continues to illuminate Haller's journey. In a symbolic sense, it allows Haller to make the transition from hopelessness to an affirmation of life's meaningfulness. In a literal sense, he ceases, as a result of the epiphanic experience, to roam the city's midnight mazes, and instead explores the Magic Theater's splendiferous corridors with Mozart. Thus, before the advent of the epiphany he is lost in the realm of his darkest despair, whereas after it he ascends in the Magic Theater to his imagination's highest and most radiant peaks.

The significance of the epiphany unfolds within Hesse's description of his search for release from an alienation from his self (the sense of being the lone wolf Harry Haller). Although the "Tractate" restates to a considerable extent what the editorial prologue to Harry's confessions has already contended, it takes him a step further down the path that the epiphany on the city street has illuminated. The booklet convinces Harry (as the character Hermine will also do later) that he, like every human being, has not two but a multitude of selves. (For example, Hermine is the feminine in his nature.) It will be his task, as he forces himself to think beyond the concept of individuation, [12] to imagine the many aspects of his personality and to examine the conflict between the author and the society with which he is inextricably involved, a core concept in Hesse's work. As the Steppenwolf tractate looks back on Harry Haller's dichotomous self, the analysis in the pamphlet also represents a bridge to the adventure of the Magic Theater (which the epiphany has created). [13]

While the three parts of the novel all deal with Harry's problematic character, it is the concluding section, the Magic Theater episode, which, although it again depicts his frustrations, affords him the knowledge of the "true self" promised him on the occasion of the epiphany. This kind of revelation will enable him to throw off the burden of living on the brink of madness and self-destruction. Thus, the slogan that appears at the end of the message provided by the epiphany is "Only for the Mad." These words become the motto for the tractate and subsequently the motto that prefaces Harry's experiences in the Magic Theater. According to Allemann, the main purpose of the booklet is to lead Haller in the direction of a resolution of his problems. [14] The Steppenwolf then makes his first notable attempt to heal his dichotomous self by reading the pamphlet, which, in effect, generalizes his situation. In taking the tractate to heart, he confronts its authors, whom he will come to know as the Immortals of the Magic Theater, a construction of much greater sophistication than that of the previous version's sage in the restaurant at the edge of a magic forest. In her essay on Der Steppenwolf, Mary E. Stewart states that Hesse's use of the motif of a suprahuman phenomenon "reflects the concern of many of [his] contemporaries to find some kind of timeless essence to set against the unanchored subjectivity of individual experience: Joyce's 'epiphanies' [and] Thomas Mann's interest in mythology." [15] Hesse's interweaving of these psychological configurations follows the pattern of mirroring, which is the main feature of the symbolism in the novel's climactic episode.

Confronted with an eminently autobiographical text, the reader is led to assume that the story and the event of the epiphany are being told on a realistic level. The same kind of narration prevails in the account of the protagonist's desperate efforts to adjust to a life as a quasi-libertine in a cosmopolitan environment. However, in the ensuing Magic Theater episode, Harry's confessions unexpectedly and dramatically take on a bizarre aspect. In the occurrence that provides a resolution to Harry's problems in the novel, Haller (the name, in its relationship to "verhallen," suggests someone whose voice is fading away as though with his or her generation), as a half-bourgeois, half-beastly personality, becomes transformed. The first-person narrator is absorbed into the narrative when it becomes clear that the figure represents the author's search for wholeness. This ultimate state of existence is to be achieved, in consonance with the text's goal, by the integration of his many selves. It must be noted that this transformation does not constitute a final solution to the conflicts in Haller's life. Rather, it can only constitute a temporary one. The difficulties of the artist in his or her relationship to (bourgeois) society, according to Hesse, require ongoing attention.

The pre-Magic Theater stage of Harry's life in the city allows Hesse also to introduce the people of the demimonde and the bohemian world in the Zürich of the twenties. One of them, the prostitute Hermine, becomes prominent in her role as Harry's guide in the preternatural realm. Her name, which reminds Haller of his childhood friend Hermann (the author himself), suggests that she is Harry's anima, the creative (life-giving) self, an aspect of himself that he has suppressed in order to have a secure place in the bourgeois world. To prepare him for his experiences in the Magic Theater, Hermine has previously undertaken to educate him in worldliness, that is, to teach him how to enjoy the freedom of dance, jazz music, and the world of erotic, sensual pleasures. These activities bring to the fore a number of his many selves. The novel becomes the story of Harry's painful acquisition of the talents that allow him to function as a city-dweller in the post-World War One world. He finds he has the ability to drink to excess, to dance to "non-music," or jazz, and to consort with, and enjoy the favors of, prostitutes. At this point, the novel is a straightforward account of his life as he approaches the age of fifty. Along with the women of the night, Hermine and her friend Maria, Haller is also guided by the jazz musician Pablo, a name faintly reminiscent of two of Hesse's fellow artists: Pablo Picasso and Pablo Casals. They are here subtly presented as possible companions of Harry Haller in the hectic, pleasure-seeking activities of the bohemian inhabitants of a European metropolis. Their revelries reach a climax at a masked ball. It is at this point that the realism subsides, and the book becomes a surrealistic fantasy.

The symbolism in this concluding section of the novel is the outcome of a challenge that the author Hesse has put to himself. In his blatantly autobiographical essay "Krisis: ein Stück Tagebuch," a second preliminary version of Der Steppenwolf, he acknowledges that a late-blooming but irrepressible urge to be strictly truthful and honest about himself led to his consciousness of the dark side of his nature. [16] In a letter to Hugo Ball, who had been contracted to write Hesse's biography, Hesse stated this resolve. He also drew the conclusion that his, as he termed it, neurotic obsession with delving into the sicknesses of the times was indeed the result of those sicknesses (themselves the result of the excesses of individualism), which had overrun Europe like a plague. [17] The treatment Hesse prescribed as a remedy for society's dissolute practices, namely, for example, the unending warfare among the nations, was to expose the wound that society had inflicted on itself. As a means to this end, Hesse chose to write an autobiographical account, detailing his bout with neurosis as an artist and intellectual. [18]

In converting a hotel ballroom and its environs into a "magic theater," Hesse has created a cosmography of his own mind and soul. What are the features of this inner landscape? The figures Hesse conjures up to populate the scene are hyperbolic versions of the characters whom the Steppenwolf has met during his adventures in the nightlife of the metropolis. Hermine now serves to illuminate a psychological concept, that of the anima. According to the psychoanalytical theory of Carl Gustav Jung, the anima, in its capacity as a creative force in the mind, engenders healing in the fractured self. (Hesse was a patient of Jung and, more importantly, of Dr. Lang, one of Jung's disciples.) Against this background, the role that Hermine plays in the Magic Theater becomes clear: she brings Haller closer to understanding himself and his plight. Nevertheless, Harry's possibly feigned murder of Hermine, which occurs as his adventures in the deepest regions of the self come to a close, can but signify that he must abandon her as his guide and go the rest of his way alone. Further evidence that he has taken responsibility for his own life and way of living is the change in his thinking manifested by the transformation of Pablo, the saxophone player, into the image of Mozart. This puzzling interplay of symbols tends to place the reader back on the dark street where the glowing letters on the rain-darkened sidewalk spelled out the warning "Only for the Mad," that is, for those in an ultimate stage of distress. The turn of events in the Magic Theater cannot provide the ultimate solution either to the Steppenwolf's psychological problems or Harry Haller's confusions in a licentious society between the wars. [19] As Beda Allemann has pointed out in his article "Der Traktat vom Steppenwolf," the author Hesse himself expressly presents his private insight into the means by which a society in turmoil can reacquire its equilibrium. [20] The remedy requires, in Hesse's terms, a faith in "the higher, historical correlations of earthly existence." [21]

In a letter written on 14 May 1931, following the publication of Der Steppenwolf, Hesse proclaimed: "One must be able to replace the idols of the age with a faith. This I have always done; in Der Steppenwolf this involves Mozart and the Immortals and the Magic Theater." [22] Harry's adventures in the Magic Theater depict his attempt to resolve the conflicts that plague him (together with Hesse and all of bourgeois society) in the era of the twentieth century between two world wars.

In Der Steppenwolf Hesse does not champion escape from a world in upheaval by means of drugs that induce a false sense of security. Although licentious behavior occurs in the scenes that take place in the Magic Theater, these are a prelude to an episode of spiritual transcendence that occurs as a final consequence of Harry's epiphany. Neither does the Magic Theater have a resemblance to the Theater of the Absurd. When, in an episode in this section, Harry aims his pistol at the drivers of cars who race down the highways, they are for him symbolically destroyers of the natural world. He is protesting an act of vandalism perpetrated by a bourgeoisie too eager to solve problems by making use of machines. On a more personal level, Harry fulfills his youthful sexual desires by taking part in a charade in the theater's loges. In this latter adventure his Steppenwolf self whips his all-too-human self, and vice versa. These adventures serve mainly to lead him toward his ultimate adventure in the Magic Theater. Offering himself as a guide to Harry in reaching his goal, Mozart appears. Henry Hatfield, in an essay on Hesse's Steppenwolf, has pointed out that Mozart comes on stage at this point while reciting "a Joycean sort of 'pome.'" [23]

Mozart is a many-faceted symbol. He stands, first of all, for the Immortals, namely, all creative artists. In a recent study of Hesse and his work, Karin Tebbin has associated artistic achievement with the process of becoming free of the bonds of the merely personal and reaching the lofty heights of the supra-personal; only from this vantage point can the writer share his views with the reader. [24] In another capacity, Mozart symbolizes music and the power to express the ineffable. In a letter written on 10 January 1929, Hesse explains his decision to select Mozart from among other musical geniuses to reign in the Magic Theater. He posits that Mozart's operas were for him the very concept of theater. [25] Significantly, Mozart also tries to teach Haller the art of laughter, the art of rising above the vicissitudes and dichotomies of life and above death itself.

At the conclusion of the climactic scene in which Mozart provides Haller with a key to the puzzles that he has confronted in the Magic Theater, this Immortal closest to Harry's heart vanishes. He leaves behind in Harry an intuitive sense of the meaningfulness of his experiences. As Ted R. Spivey explains, "[I]n a visionary moment [Harry] glimpses the archetype of the cosmic man." [26] In regard to this archetype David G. Richards contends: "With mythopeic power Joyce and Hesse create figures originating in the archetype out of which the mythical heroes arose. They set out in search of the hero's image and power, which is awaiting discovery and activation in every individual." [27] In this instance, Harry Haller, through Mozart and his compositions, begins to understand the cosmic aspect of the relationship between the artist and society, particularly bourgeois society, that has propelled the Steppenwolfs in its midst into madness. Harry Haller rids himself of his despair after his experience in the Magic Theater. The key function of the epiphany on the dark city street has been to bind together the three levels on which Haller's hegira tales place: the real world of Europe between the wars, the literary realm of the tractate, and the cosmic or eternal sphere of the Magic Theater. There the Steppenwolf momentarily puts aside his dual nature and transcends the ills of mortality.

As if to emphasize the tentative aspect of his achievement, Haller finds himself alone with the saxophone player Pablo (Mozart) at the end of his adventures and misadventures in the theater. Pablo berates him for having taken these too seriously and for having perhaps misinterpreted them. He reassures Harry that further experiments in reassembling the many selves of the onetime dichotomous Steppenwolf can be made at his discretion. The open-ended nature of the conclusion of Der Steppenwolf establishes that the moment of epiphany initiated by the moving lighted text that Haller seeks to interpret is a signpost to the artist-writer. It directs artists and writers (and their public) in the direction of reorienting themselves in order to contend with a world gone mad. In the year in which Der Steppenwolf was first published, Hesse wrote to his biographer, Hugo Ball, and summarized what he had intended the novel to convey. Its message, so Hesse indicates, was that the writer's mission must be to become self-aware and thus bring, by establishing an inner equilibrium, harmony into a world beset with wars and moral decay. In his letter Hesse also proposes that the writer's objective must not be to affirm the goodness of life, but to explore its heights and depths so that readers and critics can become enlightened about the burden they bear in common with the writer. [28]


[1] Early instances of Hesse's fascination with this theme occur in the novels Hinterlassene Schriften und Gedichte von Hermann Lauscher (1900-1901) and Gertrud (1910). See also Materialien zu Hermann Hesses "Der Steppenwolf," ed. Volker Michaels (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1972) 114.
Return to article

[2] Hermann Hesse, "Der Steppenwolf," Gesammelte Dichtungen, vol. 4 (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1952) 219. All subsequent references to the novel are to this edition and are cited in the text in parentheses.
Return to article

[3] Joseph Milek does not fail to provide an explanation for the overlapping of the words "epiphany" and "grace"; see his Hermann Hesse: Life and Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978). He contends: "[Hesse] never created an idiosyncratic idiom in the manner of a James Joyce …, but he did evolve a personal use of words for life's ineffable interludes, those mystical moments of grace when all is a harmonious, meaningful oneness" (236).
Return to article

[4] Lewis W. Tusken, Understanding Hermann Hesse (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1998) 113.
Return to article

[5] Oskar Seidlin, "Hermann Hesse: The Exorcism of the Demon," Hesse: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Theodore Ziolkowski (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1973) 52.
Return to article

[6] See Ralph Freedman, "Person and Persona: The Magic Mirrors of Der Steppenwolf," Hesse: A Collection of Critical Essays 76, and R. F., The Lyrical Novel: Studies in Hermann Hesse, André Gide and Virginia Woolf (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963) 49.
Return to article

[7] David G. Richards, Exploring the Divided Self: Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf and its Critics (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1996) 6.
Return to article

[8] "Only for the Mad" recurs conspicuously in other parts of Der Steppenwolf. Aside from the suggestion that only madness can lead to an appreciation of the subtleties of the text, Hesse's use of the word "verrückt," consisting of the verb rücken "to move" and the prefix ver, indicating something gone awry, shows that he considers the Steppenwolf to be outside the pale.
Return to article

[9] See Materialien 203-8. The editor has given the passage the title "Jenseits der Mauer" (Beyond the wall).
Return to article

[10] Quoted from the article "Dem sechzigjährigen Hermann Hesse," Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2 July 1937, No. 1192.
Return to article

[11] See Theodore Ziolkowski, Hermann Hesse (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966); rpt. in Materialien 353-76.
Return to article

[12] See "Der Steppenwolf-Traktat und Hermine hatten recht mit ihrer Lehre von den tausend Seelen," Gesammelte Dichtungen, V: 319.
Return to article

[13] See Beda Allemann, "Der Traktat von dem Steppenwolf," Materialien 310.
Return to article

[14] Allemann, in Materialien 322.
Return to article

[15] Mary E. Stewart, "The Refracted Self: Hermann Hesse, Der Steppenwolf," The German Novel in the Twentieth Century:Beyond Realism, ed. David Midgley (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993) 82.
Return to article

[16] See Materialien 162.
Return to article

[17]Materialien 97.
Return to article

[18] Hesse analyzes this state of affairs in a letter to his biographer, Hugo Ball, dated 19 Oct. 1926: "Insofar as my biography has a purpose, it would have to be this: that the personal, incurable, yet roughly brought under control neurosis of an intellectual is at the same time a symptom for the spirit of the age," qtd. in Materialien 97.
Return to article

[19] Hesse regarded the coming of a second World War as inevitable.
Return to article

[20] In Materialien 323. See also Karen Tebbin, "Und dann war ich eben nie etwas anderes als Künstler," Colloquia Germanica 32.1 (1999): 15.
Return to article

[21] Alemann, in Materialien 323.
Return to article

[22] Letter of 4 May 1931, in Materialien 259.
Return to article

[23] Henry Hatfield, Crisis and Continuity in Modern German Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969) 72.
Return to article

[24] Karen Tebbin 15.
Return to article

[25]Materialien 134.
Return to article

[26] Ted R. Spivey, "The Reintegration of Modern Man: An Essay on James Joyce and Hermann Hesse," Studies in the Literary Imagination 3.2 (1970): 55.
Return to article

[27] Richards 119.
Return to article

[28]Materialien 114.
Return to article

0 Thoughts to “Steppenwolf Hermann Hesse Essay

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrĂ  pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *