Study Guide

Steppenwolf Quotes

  • Isolation

    As for others and the world around him he never ceased in his heroic and earnest endeavor to love them, to be just to them, to do them no harm, for the love of his neighbor was as deeply in him as the hatred of himself, and so his whole life was an example that love of one's neighbor is not possible without love of oneself, and that self-hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same cruel isolation and despair. (Preface 22)

    Usually we don't equate having low self-esteem with being egocentric, but that seems to be what the narrator is suggesting here. What do you think about the idea that someone who hates him- or herself is actually really self-centered?

    I was much astonished that the hermit had his love, and one so young and pretty and elegant; and all my conjectures about him and his life were upset once more. But before an hour had gone he came back alone and dragged himself wearily upstairs with his sad and heavy tread. (Preface 41)

    Contrast this lonely scene with the girl-filled romps to come; the isolation Harry feels with his girlfriend Erica is a big contrast to his relationships with Maria and Hermine.

    Haller belongs to those who have been caught between two ages, who are outside of all security and simple acquiescence. He belongs to those whose fate it is to live the whole riddle of human destiny heightened to the pitch of a personal torture, a personal hell. (Preface 48)

    Harry is living in the past, stuck with his classical music, and just can't figure out how to live in the modern world with its newfangled jazz and radios. Oh, but he'll learn…

    Oh, if I had had a friend at this moment, a friend in an attic room, dreaming by candlelight and with a violin lying ready at his hand! (18)

    This thought of Harry's shows us that he isn't always such a hermit because he likes it; in fact, he sometimes really wishes for some company. Later Harry will learn that this kind of wish is accessible to him through the Magic Theater.

    Solitude is independence. It had been my wish and with the years I had attained it. (19)

    Very interesting. It seems that Harry isn't a loner just because people don't like him or because he doesn't know how to make friends. This quote shows us that he actually wanted to be alone, and worked toward keeping people away from him.

    Independently and alone, he decided what to do and to leave undone. […] But in the midst of the freedom he had attained Harry suddenly became aware that his freedom was a death and that he stood alone. (38)

    Oops. Another case of "be careful what you wish for." Previously Harry equated solitude with independence, but can you think of some exceptions to that rule? What is the price of independence? Do you think that giving up some of your freedom might be worthwhile if you get some help from your friends out of the bargain?

    No one came near to him. There was no link left, and no one could have had any part in his life even had anyone wished it. (38)

    This sentence, which comes from the Treatise on the Steppenwolf, sounds like a punishment. It seems like Harry has no escape because he has built up his loneliness so securely.

    His tendency is to explain Mozart's perfected being, just as a schoolmaster would, as a supreme and special gift rather than as the outcome of his immense powers of surrender and suffering, of his indifference to the ideals of the bourgeois, and of his patience under that last extremity of loneliness which rarefies the atmosphere of the bourgeois world to an ice-cold ether, around those who suffer to become men, that loneliness of the Garden of Gethsemane. (62)

    So Harry thinks that Mozart is a genius because he has been blessed; it sounds like the author of the Treatise thinks that the way to being a genius is actually to suffer a whole lot and to isolate oneself completely. At least that would give you time to think? And the shout-out to the Garden of Gethsemane is the ultimate lonely scene: Jesus is praying for his life when one of his closest friends betrays him.

    She came to see me now and then, or I made the journey to her, and since both of us were lonely, difficult people related somehow to one another in soul, and sickness of soul, there was a link between us that held in spite of all. (79)

    It sounds like Harry and Erica, his on-again off-again girlfriend, don't have too much in common other than being lonely. It seems interesting that Harry, who works so hard to be alone and lonely, would even bother with having a girlfriend. Maybe she just reaffirms to him that he is unlovable because they can't get along.

    […] Though I really found it all ridiculous, I could not help enjoying these crumbs of warmth and kindliness, and was lapping them up like a starved dog. (85)

    In this quote food is a metaphor for kindness, which shows how vital it is to survival; the starved dog is Harry, because he has very little kindness in his lonely life. Poor little lonely wolf pup.

  • Drugs and Alcohol

    I am not only a middleclass man, living a regular life, fond of work and punctuality; I am also an abstainer and nonsmoker, and these bottles in Haller's room pleased me even less than the rest of his artistic disorder. (Preface 23)

    Here we see how the narrator of the preface is Harry's exact opposite. Where the narrator won't drink a drop or smoke a puff, Harry is extreme in his habits.

    When, later on, I accompanied him sometimes to his haunts I often saw with my own eyes how he drank when the mood was on him, though neither I nor anyone else ever saw him really drunk. (Preface 24)

    He might drink like a fish, but he can hold his liquor—Harry's got a tolerance that shows that his drinking habit is pretty serious. The fact that the narrator of the preface is the first one to tell us about Harry's drinking predisposes us to thinking of Harry in a certain way, probably as weak because of his addiction. How does your understanding of Harry's alcoholism change when you hear it from him instead of the narrator of the preface?

    "I have practiced abstinence myself for years, and had my time of fasting, too, but now I find myself once more beneath the sign of Aquarius, a dark and humid constellation." (Preface 38)

    This quote of Harry's shows us how he believes that the universe is acting on him, rather than being independent, like he always claims he is. That seems to be contradictory, and actually what he finds in the Magic Theater has more to do with letting go of control, like he's doing here, than trying to nail it down.

    And this too was odd: that somewhere in a green valley vines were tended by good, strong fellows and the wine pressed so that here and there in the world, far away, a few disappointed, quietly drinking townsfolk and dispirited Steppenwolves could sip a little heart and courage from their glasses. (14)

    Observing all the other people drowning their sorrows, Harry lets us know that he doesn't have a monopoly on being the Steppenwolf: there are lots of divided souls in the world.

    Once when despair had again got the better of me I had swallowed a big dose of [laudanum]—enough to kill six men, and yet it had not killed me. (75)

    Remember that high tolerance we were talking about with the drinking? Well, apparently he can take deadly doses of drugs, too, and survive. Harry was just not meant to die, it would seem.

    Once there, I poured myself out some brandy and water, swallowed some of my gout pills with it, and, lying on the sofa, tried to read. (86)

    This event happens right before Harry meets Hermine; it shows how he relates drugs to sickness before he gets in with the crazy crowd.

    I scanned the timetables on the walls; drank some wine and tried to come to my senses. (97)

    Hmm… usually drinking wine helps you lose your senses, but if you need it to think clearly that probably means you have a problem.

    Hermine told me that Pablo had many such drugs, and that he procured them through secret channels. He offered them to his friends now and then and was a master in the mixing and prescribing of them. He had drugs for stilling pain, for inducing sleep, for begetting beautiful dreams, lively spirits and the passion of love. (345)

    Now we get to the good stuff. Before, drugs were used for suicide and pain; now they have a purpose of being inspirational. Also, Harry usually drinks and takes drugs alone when he's depressed. With Pablo, it becomes a social activity that opens everyone's minds.

    As I felt a little unwell after this, Pablo laid me on the bed and gave me some drops, and while I lay with closed eyes I felt the fleeting breath of a kiss on each eyelid. (387)

    And drugs can also be an excuse… Harry can accept the kisses from his friend while he's on the magic drops, when just a few minutes before he had rejected Pablo's proposal.

    Thus we sat peacefully exhaling small puffs and taking little sips at our glasses, while every moment we felt ourselves growing lighter and more serene. (490)

    The entrance to the Magic Theater requires that the participants smoke some special cigarettes, which helps us to understand that it is really something that happens in Harry's mind rather than in reality.

  • Identity

    During that very first conversation, about the araucaria, he called himself the Steppenwolf, and this too estranged and disturbed me a little. What an expression! However, custom did not only reconcile me to it, but soon I never thought of him by any other name; nor could I today hit on a better description of him. (Preface 35)

    Harry has constructed the idea of the Steppenwolf to explain his nature to himself and others; the narrator's reaction (disturbed) shows how it can be a little bit creepy to have someone showing up and claiming to be half-wolf. Let Tyler Lautner be warned.

    I am in truth the Steppenwolf that I often call myself; that beast astray who finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in a world that is strange and incomprehensible to him. (7)

    Now we get Harry's own description of the Steppenwolf; he also could have called himself an unfrozen caveman, if you ask us.

    And so the Steppenwolf had two natures, a human and a wolfish one. (33)

    Harry must be a real black-and-white thinker, because he can't figure out a way to conceive of himself as a civilized person if he also has an animal nature. That's why he has to invent the Steppenwolf.

    There were those, whoever, who loved precisely the wolf in him, the free, the savage, the untamable, the dangerous and strong, and these found it peculiarly disappointing and deplorable when suddenly the wild and wicked wolf was also a man, and had hankerings after goodness and refinement, and wanted to hear Mozart, to read poetry and to cherish human ideals. (35)

    We can see that Harry isn't the only one who has a problem reconciling fancy taste and grouchy, wolf-like behavior: it seems like it's a problem that society has in accepting that people can be really surprising.

    These persons all have two souls, two beings within them. There is God and the devil in them; the mother's blood and the father's; the capacity for happiness and the capacity for suffering; and in just such a state of enmity and entanglement towards and within each other as were the wolf and man in Harry. (37)

    The people being described here are constructed using opposites: God, the devil; mother, father; happiness, suffering. The novel seems to be showing us, though, that there are more than just two answers to every question. How does this war happen in you or people you know? Are there parts of your personality that seem contradictory? How do you deal with them?

    He is no were-wolf at all, and if we appeared to accept without scrutiny this lie which he invented for himself and believes in, and tried to regard him literally as a two-fold being and a Steppenwolf, and so designated him, it was merely in the hope of being more easily understood with the assistance of a delusion, which we must now endeavor to put in its true light. (55)

    Here we go… the treatise is laying the smack down on Harry's Steppenwolf concept. It seems like the Steppenwolf invention is really just a way of making it easier to understand Harry, because he can't think of a better way to explain his contradictory desires. However, the treatise knows that everyone is full of contradictions and they don't need to be simplified to be understood.

    And while I, Harry Haller, stood there in the street, flattered and surprised and studiously polite and smiling into the good fellow's kindly, short-sighted face, there stood the other Harry, too, at my elbow and grinned likewise. (85)

    You know those moments where you want to laugh at a funeral or scream in the middle of the library? Maybe that's just your other, mischievous self coming out.

    Within me, the battle raged furiously. (86)

    For Harry identity is a violent concept. In this metaphor he compares his desires to be social and be antisocial, which are pretty contradictory, to a war going on inside of him.

    "One wouldn't know you. You were so dull and flat before." (472)

    Once Harry finds Hermine he finally gets into the party mood and the people around him think of him as a completely different person. His identity is very fluid, as though he were changing from one person to another.

    The mournful image in the glass gave a final convulsion and vanished. (506)

    Steppenwolf asks the reader to imagine what would happen if we let go completely of our identity, and our ideas about who we are, and lived instead through all the possibilities there are.

  • Mortality

    No more is needed to show that the Steppenwolf lived a suicidal existence. But all the same I do not believe that he took his own life when, after paying all he owed but without a word of warning or farewell, he left our town one day and vanished. (Preface 42)

    The first hint of Harry's suicidal nature shows up early, in the preface, which is a glimpse of things to come. Later on the treatise will say that he's a suicidal dude, and Harry himself will tell us about his own suicide attempts.

    But he has not killed himself, for a glimmer of belief still tells him that he is to drink this frightful suffering in his heart to the dregs, and that it is of this suffering he must die. (Preface 44)

    Here suffering is compared to a drink that will kill Harry… kind of like his alcoholism. He has to drink down his suffering just like he drinks down liquor. The narrator of the preface is convinced that Harry hasn't yet done the deed. Do you think he's still alive somewhere, wolfing it up?

    What is peculiar to the suicide is that his ego, rightly or wrongly, is felt to be an extremely dangerous, dubious, and doomed germ of nature; that he is always in his own eyes exposed to an extraordinary risk, as though he stood with the slightest foothold on the peak of a crag whence a slight push from without or an instant's weakness from within suffices to precipitate him into the void. (39)

    The treatise on the Steppenwolf compares the suicidal person to a germ in this metaphor; then it compares life, for the suicidal person, to standing on the edge of a cliff. Both images convey extreme vulnerability or danger, even if from the outside it doesn't seem like the suicidal person is really doing anything out of the ordinary.

    Many of these natures are wholly incapable of ever having recourse to real suicide, because they have a profound consciousness of the sin of doing so. For us they are suicides nonetheless; for they see death and not life as the releaser. (40)

    This is an interesting take on suicide, because it isn't about the act of actually killing oneself; it counts the desire to do so in and of itself as suicide. Do you think it's possible to live as a suicide without ever committing suicide?

    He gained strength through familiarity with the thought that the emergency exit stood always open, and became curious, too, to taste his sufferings to the dregs. (41)

    Comparing suicide to an emergency exit is metaphor that shows us how Harry sees life as a state of urgency and danger. Instead of something to enjoy, life becomes an emergency that must be escaped from.

    He appointed his fiftieth birthday as the day on which he might allow himself to take his own life. (42)

    Well, happy birthday to you, Harry. This gives Harry a reason to keep on living, paradoxically, because he knows that he can always kill himself later. What a way to celebrate. How would the novel be different if Harry had chosen his 18th birthday or his 30th, for example?

    Death was decreed for this Steppenwolf. He must with his own hand make an end of his detested existence-unless, molten in the fire of a renewed self-knowledge, he underwent a change and passed over to a self, new and undisguised. (70)

    Finally we get a glimmer of hope. Harry has gone through life up to this point thinking that the only way to get some relief is to kill himself; the book, however, is offering him another option: transforming himself.

    Once when despair had again got the better of me I had swallowed a big dose of it—enough to kill six men, and yet it had not killed me. (75)

    Either Harry doesn't know how to kill six men or he has superhuman strength. But seriously, he is trying to show us that when he overdosed on his medicine he wasn't just crying for help: he really did want to die.

    But I put my resolution in this way: the next time I felt that I must have recourse to the opium, I might allow myself to use big means instead of small, that is, a death of absolute certainty with a bullet or a razor. (76)

    Harry compares suicide to opium; it's a strange metaphor, one you don't see every day. Opium dulls the senses and puts you to sleep, so suicide is like a relaxing, soothing medicine for Harry.

    Yes, I was horribly afraid of death. (97)

    Uh-oh. Another one of his lovable contradictions… Harry wants to die, yet he's horribly afraid to die. Just another in a long line of irreconcilable differences contained inside the Steppenwolf.

  • Art and Culture

    The books constantly increased, for besides bringing whole armfuls back with him from the libraries he was always getting parcels of them by post. [...] Many of the books, however, were not of a scholarly nature. The majority were works of the poets of all times and peoples. (Preface 23)

    This bit of characterization shows us that Harry is a bookworm, sure, but we also get the idea that he is obsessed with poetry and knowing everything about culture. In just a few short sentences we know what is important to this character, which will later be one of his biggest misunderstandings that has to be cleared up in the Magic Theater.

    After the Handel came a little symphony by Friedemann Bach, and I saw with surprise how after a few bars my stranger began to smile and abandon himself to the music. He was completely absorbed in himself, and for about ten minutes so happily lost and rapt in pleasant dreams that I paid more attention to him than the music. (Preface 36)

    When the narrator of the preface follows Harry to a concert we get a taste of Harry's connection to music—it seems like his only escape from his sad, suicidal existence.

    "There I was, sitting with people as one of themselves and believing that they thought of Goethe as I did and had the same picture of him in their minds as I, and there stood that tasteless, false, and sickly affair and they thought it lovely and had not the least idea that the spirit of that picture and the spirit of Goethe were exact opposites. (144)

    Uh-oh! Someone's getting a little selfish about his Goethe! Harry is revealing the know-it-all side of his personality that doesn't let other people hold opinions on the things that he is supposedly an expert in.

    "Well," he said with equanimity, "you see, in my opinion there is no point at all in talking about music. I never talk about music. [...] But, you see, I am a musician, not a professor, and I don't believe that, as regards music, there is the least point in being right." (349)

    Say what? Pablo is going for the jugular here, and providing a 180-degree revolution for Harry to think about. Harry used to be so caught up in knowing about music that he doesn't understand how someone can just enjoy it.

    "Look at the faces in a dance hall at the moment when the music strikes up after a longish pause, how eyes sparkle, legs twitch, and faces begin to laugh. That is why one makes music." (351)

    The physical part of music that makes you dance and feel rhythm is like a foreign concept to Harry. Just as he's learning to dance with Hermine, here he's learning that music isn't just an academic subject; it's also a part of joy and life.

    […] I heard pieces by Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Bach and Haydn. I had gone the old beloved way once more. […] Stealing away out of the Cathedral, I had wearily paced the dark and narrow streets, where here and there behind the windows of the restaurants jazz orchestras were playing the tunes of the life I had now come to live. Oh, what a dull maze of error I had made of my life! (360)

    We can see this moment, where Harry goes back to the church to listen to classical music as he used to before meeting Hermine, as a real crossroads in the novel. Harry is seeing that his life is changing—he is participating in what he used to reject, and losing touch with what he used to believe in. That is scary for anybody, but especially someone as set in his ways as the Steppenwolf.

    For long during this night's walk I had reflected upon the significance of my relation to music, and not for the first time recognized this appealing and fatal relation as the destiny of the entire German spirit. (361)

    Whoa! Getting deep there. Harry thinks that the deal with music is that it is able to communicate a spirit without having to put it down into words. He thinks that the German intellectuals have been lazy because they don't try to explain their national spirit in language, but accept music as a substitute. Do you think that language is the ultimate use of reason and logic? Are there other ways to express ideas?

    "Do you think I can't understand your horror of the fox trot, your dislike of bars and dancing floors, your loathing of jazz and the rest of it?" (425)

    What did the fox trot ever do to Harry? Hermine is describing all of the popular or low culture activities that contrast very starkly with Harry's old likes. She's also telling him that he's not special for being snooty—she understands him, just doesn't agree with him.

    "And if you still think it worth your while we can philosophize together and argue and talk about music and Mozart and Gluck and Plato and Goethe to your heart's content. You will understand now why it was impossible before." (507)

    Hmm… why was it impossible for Pablo to talk to Harry about music and philosophy before? Does it have something to do with the laughter Harry is supposed to learn about?

    And in fact, to my indescribable astonishment and horror, the devilish tin trumpet spat out, without more ado, a mixture of bronchial slime and chewed rubber; that noise that owners of gramophones and radios have agreed to call music. (661)

    Poor Harry. His ultimate musical idol, Mozart, turns on Harry's biggest nightmare, the radio. The use of machinery to play classical music seems like blasphemy to Harry, kind of like the picture of Goethe that got him so riled up at his friend's house.

  • Madness

    Then, when I had given up and gone back to the alley, a few colored letters were dropped here and there, reflected on the asphalt in front of me. I read: FOR MADMEN ONLY! (10)

    Now that's our kind of club! This first mysterious appearance of the phrase points to the trail of breadcrumbs Pablo and Hermine are leaving for Harry, leading him to the Magic Theater.

    Next, my family life fell in ruins over night, when my wife, whose mind was disordered, drove me from house and home. (70)

    Most of the time we think of Harry as our main mad man in the novel, but here he's showing us that it is something that has plagued his social life, too. It almost gives us the idea that madness is contagious.

    Madman, then, I must certainly be and far from the mold of "everybody" if those voices reached me and that world spoke to me. (78)

    Euclid would be proud. If the entertainment is only for madmen, and Harry is invited to the entertainment, then he must be a madman. Q.E.D. But actually, Harry has always thought of himself as a little bit crazy; isn't that what the whole Steppenwolf idea is all about? It's a way of him explaining his irrational side to himself.

    "I sincerely beg your wife's pardon and your own. Tell her, please, that I am a schizomaniac." (93)

    Now there's a message you don't get passed to you every day. "Tell your wife I'm sorry and that I'm a nutcase." We can see the way that Harry uses his madness as an excuse for his behavior.

    "Oh, don't make a song of your sufferings. You are no madman, Professor. You're not half mad enough to please me." (129)

    Oh, burn. Harry thinks that he's crazy enough to get into the Magic Theater and get with Hermine, but he has a lot to learn. Like how to laugh like a maniac, for example.

    Was I to believe that this happy child with her hearty appetite and the air of a gourmet was at the same time a victim of hysterical visions who wished to die? (256)

    Remember how Harry said his wife's mind was disordered? It seems he's surrounded by disorderly women, because here, too, Hermine is asking him to kill her, which he attributes to madness.

    TONIGHT AT THE MAGIC THEATER 

    FOR MADMEN ONLY 

    PRICE OF ADMITTANCE YOUR MIND. (459)

    Well, that's convenient. If Harry isn't mad enough to get into the theater he will be by the time he pays the admission fee. But actually, the fee isn't about literally losing your mind. The admission is opening up your mind so that the Theater can exist within it.

    "Brother Harry, I invite you to a little entertainment. For madmen only, and one price only—your mind. Are you ready?" (483)

    Pablo is sort of a puppet master in this scene, asking Harry to give him his mind in order to experience the Magic Theater. Why do you think it's necessary for him to lose his mind?

    "Just as madness, in a higher sense, is the beginning of all wisdom, so is schizomania the beginning of all art and all fantasy." (597)

    How Romantic! No, not Valentine's romantic, but the Romantic literary movement, which equates insanity with creativity. The chess player seems to be telling Harry that his insanity isn't something to fight with, but actually something that gives him a different, unique perspective on the world.

    Again I looked into the mirror. I had been mad. I must have been mad. There was no wolf in the mirror, lolling his tongue in his maw. It was I, Harry. (619)

    Oh, wait, so Harry was mad all along? Apparently the Steppenwolf myth was Harry's own brand of crazy, and when he loses his mind in the Magic Theater he's actually becoming lucid.

  • Versions of Reality

    It was not in my power to verify the truth of the experiences related in Haller's manuscript. I have no doubt that they are for the most part fictitious, not, however, in the sense of arbitrary invention. They are rather the deeply lived spiritual events which he has attempted to express by giving them the form of tangible experiences. (Preface 43)

    The narrator of the preface isn't calling Harry a liar; rather, he's saying that Harry's records are a sort of an art. He created them in order to try to communicate something that is really hard to put into words. Do you think that there are experiences that are impossible to put down into words? Have you ever had one?

    He said to me once when we were talking of the so-called horrors of the Middle Ages: "These horrors were really nonexistent. A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of pour present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous." (49)

    Harry believes that a person is a product of their time, and that the context a person is born into determines the way that they perceive of reality. This is important because at the time that Hesse wrote the novel the world was in a shambles—right after the First World War and right before the Second. Rather than trying to escape and imagine that other times were better or worse, the novel proposes that people live in their own time.

    So now I had two portraits of myself before me, one a self-portrait in doggerel verse, as sad and sorry as myself; the other painted with the air of a lofty impartiality by one who stood outside and who knew more and yet less of me than I did myself. (80)

    This kind of reminds us of the Great Goethe Picture scandal, where the picture in Harry's mind doesn't match someone else's idea of what the poet looked like. Here, though, the portrait is of Harry himself.

    What, however, occupied my thoughts more than all else was the hallucination, or vision, of the church wall. (78)

    Steppenwolf is full of tricky moments like these, where it's hard to tell what's real and what's imagined. This is important because, in the end, it doesn't matter whether or not the experiences in the novel are real or imagined. They still have an effect on Harry's life and his understanding of the world, whether they were hallucinated or real.

    "There I was, sitting with people as one of themselves and believing that they thought of Goethe as I did and had the same picture of him in their minds as I, and there stood that tasteless, false and sickly affair and they thought it lovely and had not the least idea that the spirit of that picture and the spirit of Goethe were exact opposites." (144)

    Getting back to the idea of inexpressible experiences, Harry has an idea of the "spirit" of Goethe, and also his physical appearance. He believes that the two versions should be compatible and reflect each other.

    "But in spite of this I know that my own picture of the Savior or St. Francis is only a human picture and falls short of the original, and that the Savior himself would find the picture I have of Him within me just as stupid as I do those sickly reproductions." (208)

    Hermine's comment could tell us something about art in general. Is art always a reproduction, or another version of something else? Or can it be valuable in and of itself?

    Every day new souls kept springing up beside the host of old ones, making clamorous demands and creating confusion; and now I saw as clearly as in a picture what an illusion my former personality had been. (342)

    Forget versions of reality, here Harry has more versions of himself than he can deal with. Are they all "real" versions of Harry, or are some of them invented and influenced by his new friends?

    "You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and no sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless." (425)

    Harry's kind of like a Dungeons and Dragons fan: in his inner mind he's ready for all kinds of battles and adventures. The reality is that he's just sitting around playing cards with his friends.

    There were youths, boys, schoolboys, scamps, children. Fifty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds played leap frog. Thirty-year-olds and five-year-olds, solemn and merry, worthy and comic, well-dressed and unpresentable, and even quite naked, long haired and hairless, all were I and all were seen for a flash, recognized and gone. (509)

    Imagine that every age, attitude, and outfit you ever put on was somehow recorded and saved so that there could be multiple versions of you, all of them independent and ready to go off and live their own life. That's what Harry's about to experience in the Magic Theater.

    Wishes, dreams and possibilities that had once had no other life than my own imagination were lived now in reality. (612)

    But is it reality? How do you understand the Magic Theater—as a product of Harry's imagination, or something that he really experienced?

  • Transformation

    I was amazed to see a small and pretty doorway with a Gothic arch in the middle of the wall, for I could not make up my mind whether this doorway had always been there or whether it had just been made. (8)

    The first physical transformation in the novel takes place not in a person, as most of them do, but in a piece of architecture. A door springs up out of nowhere, Alice in Wonderland-style, and Harry has to figure out what this transformation means.

    Now with our Steppenwolf it was so that in his conscious life he lived now as a wolf, now as a man, as indeed the case is with all mixed beings. (34)

    That would be pretty tiring! Harry is in a constant state of transformation, but it's only back and forth between two beings. His new pals will teach him to expand his repertoire.

    Oh, yes, I had experienced all these changes and transmutations that fate reserves for her difficult children, her ticklish customers. (72)

    It seems like transformation is a punishment for Harry in this statement. Why do you think he experiences it as such a negative, when in nature there are lots of beautiful transformations?

    And, in fact, I was no longer certain it was he. (84)

    Even before he starts taking Pablo's magical drugs Harry is having a hard time keeping a grip on reality. He thinks he recognizes someone, but then he isn't sure that it's them after all.

    While he was teasing me with the charming, dangerous thing, he became quite old once more, very, very old, a thousand years old, with hair as white as snow, and his withered graybeard's face laughed a still and soundless laughter that shook him to the depths with abysmal old-man's humor. (181)

    This transformation, which takes place in a dream, is key for what Harry will have to learn in the rest of his adventure. Goethe, his favorite poet, becomes a very, very, old laughing man. Flash forward to the end, and we find that Harry is supposed to learn how to laugh like the immortals.

    For a moment it seemed she had turned into this Herman. (231)

    When Hermine tells Harry to guess her name, she somehow makes herself transform into his boyhood friend. Do you think that it's Hermine doing it, or is it Harry's own perception?

    The old Harry and the new lived at one moment in bitter strife, at the next in peace. (358)

    Now instead of fights between the Steppenwolf and Harry, Harry's fighting with his old habits and the new person he is becoming. This is just the beginning of the division of his personality into lots of tiny parts.

    There were moments when I felt with a glow that I had only to snatch up my scattered images and raise my life as Harry Haller and as the Steppenwolf to the unity of one picture, in order to enter myself into the world of imagination and be immortal. (381)

    There is a bit of a paradox here, because in order to become one unified person Harry will have to smash his identity into millions of pieces. But the idea is that Harry has to let go of his personality and lose his identity in order to gain immortality.

    It was Hermine, Herman no longer. (476)

    Hermine changes back and forth from man to woman, and that sort of transformation is an example for Harry of all the sexual experiences he has missed because of his closed-mindedness.

    And as he spoke and conjured up a cigarette from his waistcoat pocket and offered it to me, he was suddenly Mozart no longer. It was my friend Pablo looking warmly at me out of his dark exotic eyes and as like the man who had taught me to play chess with the little figures as a twin. (683)

    Pablo holds the record for changing from one character to another, especially in the Magic Theater. Why do you think that he, whom Harry disliked and thought of as simple before, turns out to be the guru in the end?