Places: Steppenwolf

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Der Steppenwolf, 1927 (English translation, 1929)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological

Time of work: 1920’s

Places DiscussedMagic Theater

Magic SteppenwolfTheater. Literally, the hell of Steppenwolf’s mind and soul. Although the trip to the Magic Theater does not occur until the end of the novel, it is there that Hesse puts forth his ideas about the fractured soul of modern man manifesting the existential and the suicidal, here represented and embodied by Harry Haller. Hermine, Haller’s lover–a prostitute who herself has a death wish–teaches him to dance and takes him to a great ball. When he descends to the basement for a drug-induced experience brought on by laudanum, opium, and cocaine, Hell reveals itself to be a place where one can get anything one wants. Seeing himself repeatedly in a magic mirror that displays his many schizophrenic personalities and selves, Haller can fulfill any want he can imagine, whether real or illusionary. His Magic Theater contains one hundred doors, each of which has a name designed to seduce and satiate, such as “All Girls Are Yours.”

Rented rooms

Rented rooms. Residence of the Steppenwolf from the beginning of the novel until his suicide at the end. For reasons never explained, Haller arrives in the unnamed town and takes up residence in a private home, in which he meets the initial narrator of the story, a young man who is the nephew of the owner of the house. Haller is attracted to the home because it is, as he repeatedly describes it, “bourgeois.” He likes its middle-class cleanliness, the smells from the kitchen, and the lifestyle of the family who own and run the home, as well as the other lodgers.

Haller’s rented rooms themselves assume the qualities of this man who fancies himself a wolf from the steppes; they become primarily a study in which he has art works as well as books, and he lives here in a kind of hearth and home environs protected from the howling landscape of modern man outside his windows. Basically, these rented rooms, like the nameless, unidentified small town in which Haller is living, are intentionally nondescript so that they can have universal applicability.

Black Eagle

Black Eagle. Most important of three public bars that Haller frequents, a place with food, drink, and other accommodations. It is located in the basement of the business establishment where he experiences the Magic Theater. While apparently decent on its exterior, the Black Eagle is at its core emblematic of the decadence that pervaded Germany in the period between the two world wars in which the novel is set. Its music is that of American jazz–which in the context of the novel symbolizes wanton abandonment. Drugs are in endless supply, and casual sex is rampant, easy, and multidimensional. Though tame by standards to occur later in the twentieth century, the Black Eagle is intended to be something of a moral pigsty of its day.

BibliographyBoulby, Mark. “The Steppenwolf.” In Hermann Hesse: His Mind and Art. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. Compares the structure and motifs of Steppenwolf with those of Hesse’s other novels. Discusses how depersonalization becomes an essential element in the solution of Harry Haller’s dilemma.Casebeer, Edwin F. “Steppenwolf: Siddhartha Today.” In Hermann Hesse. New York: Warner Paperback Library, 1972. A Jungian interpretation of Steppenwolf. Sees Hermine as the anima and Pablo/Mozart as the Self of Harry Haller, especially in the Magic Theater dream world that the Self creates to discover its real nature.Field, George Wallis. “Der Steppenwolf: Crisis and Recovery.” In Hermann Hesse. Boston: Twayne, 1970. Traces the autobiographical element and the development of the humor theme from Hesse’s earlier works into Steppenwolf. Discusses the themes of sexuality, cultural criticism, music, and the transcendence of reality.Freedman, Ralph. “Person and Persona: The Magic Mirrors of Steppenwolf.” In Hesse: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Theodore Ziolkowski. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973. Posits that Hesse created protagonists as images and distortions of himself to reflect the interplay between self-in-life (person) and self-in-art (persona). Discusses how Jungian psychoanalysis fashioned many of the artistic strategies in Steppenwolf.Ziolkowski, Theodore. “The Steppenwolf: A Sonata in Prose.” In The Novels of Hermann Hesse: A Study in Theme and Structure. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965. Focuses on the technical problems of the novel’s structure and explains how Hesse used musical sonata form to shape Steppenwolf.
Categories: Places