Study Guide

Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Summary

Steppenwolf starts out all mysterious-like, with a preface that explains where the manuscript comes from. It's a juicy story; we find out that the novel we are about to read is actually the papers and records left at a boarding house by a guy who called himself the Steppenwolf (real name Harry Haller), which is the German word for "wolf of the steppes".

Oh, and the steppes are the big, flat grasslands of Russian and southeastern Europe.

So anyway, the narrator of the preface explains that this middle-aged loner, Harry, came to live at his aunt's boarding house and stayed for almost a year. He tells us that the Steppenwolf came, did a lot of sniffing (like a wolf), decided that the aunt's house smelled good, and asked to rent a room. He left behind his records, which the narrator decides to publish.

We get to "Harry Haller's Records", a.k.a. the novel, and dive into the Steppenwolf's crazy psyche. Now we have Harry's first-person perspective on what the narrator has tried to prepare us for, and believe us, it really is "for madmen only."

Harry's account starts out with him leaving the boarding house to wander the streets. He sees an arched doorway that he'd never noticed before. In fact, he thinks it might have just appeared out of the blue. He decides to check it out and sees that it has writing over it that says "Magic Theater; Entrance Not for Everybody."

Harry can't get the door open (can't he read the sign?), but finds more words shining on the ground as he leaves that say "For Madmen Only!" And it takes one to know one… they're talking to the insane-o Steppenwolf.

The wandering continues, and finally Harry sees a guy, who seems to be a cigar salesman, carrying a sign advertising an anarchist evening, which is obviously everybody's idea of a good time. Of course the Steppenwolf has got to check this out, and asks the guy about the party. The cigar salesman is not interested in inviting Harry, tells Harry it's not for everybody, and gives him a book.

It turns out that the book is called "Treatise on the Steppenwolf" and is about Harry! Trippy, right? The book is about how silly Harry is for believing that he is the Steppenwolf. The deal is that his personal philosophy divides him into two: Harry, the man, and the Steppenwolf, which is his cruel animal side. The book says that Harry's a fool for thinking that way, because actually he has infinite natures, not just two.

Then Harry has to learn the lesson the hard way, because he doesn't believe what the book says. After a fight with an old friend he decides he will kill himself, but stops in at a dance hall before he goes home to do the deed. He meets a woman there named Hermine, who turns out to be a prostitute, who befriends him and keeps him safe from suicide that night.

Hermine turns Harry's life upside down. She teaches him how to dance, and sends him one of her prostitute buddies, Maria, to entertain him every now and then. She also gets a little bit creepy, telling Harry that she will make him fall in love with her and that he'll have to kill her. Everyone's idea of an awesome girlfriend, right?

Harry's plan is to step out and show off his new moves at a costume ball, and it turns into quite the trip.  He takes some funky drugs and ends up in crazy magic theater (the one advertised way back at the beginning of the book) where he goes into different rooms and experiences different scenes from his life and imagination. In the end he kills Hermine as promised, but it isn't clear whether it's true or part of the hallucination.

It turns out Harry still has a lot to learn about becoming happy. Huh. We never would have guessed?

  • Preface

    • The narrator lets us know what the deal is with the crazy book we're about to read: it's the papers left behind by "the Steppenwolf," a dude with the real (and pedestrian) first name of Harry who lived in the narrator's aunt's boarding house several years ago. He was only a boarder for a few months, though.
    • The narrator tells us about the first day he met Harry: the Steppenwolf shows up at noon, when lunch is on the table, and starts sniffing around. No, really. He literally sniffs the air and says that it smells good. (Wolf alert!)
    • The narrator has to take off while the aunt is showing the Steppenwolf the rooms, and when he gets home he finds out that she did rent a room to the weird stranger. The narrator is upset because the Steppenwolf asked the aunt not to notify the police that he was there because he doesn't want to have to sit in the waiting room. (This is a regular requirement, like changing your address with the DMV, in some European countries, like Germany). If you've gone to the DMV, you can probably relate. If not, happy Sweet Sixteen
    • The narrator worries that the Steppenwolf is too wild and will be a bad tenant, but it turns out that, even though he is wild, he doesn't cause any trouble.
    • The narrator dreams about him even years after he has moved out, though, and finds him to be a very disturbing figure.
    • The Steppenwolf, whose full name is Harry Haller, btw, moves into his new digs and makes friends with the narrator. The narrator invites him to go see a famous scholar speak at his school. They do, but the Steppenwolf looks like he is being tortured by the smarty-pants speaker.
    • The narrator explains that the Steppenwolf was a genius who hated himself, in a nutshell. He spends his mornings in bed, reads a ton, and seems to have come from a little town in Germany. He's also interested in Eastern religion, art, music, literature, and a girl whose picture he's got in his room.
    • Harry was a drunk, but the narrator doesn't drink or smoke and is irritated by Harry's habits. Harry's in really bad health, limps, and seems tired all the time. The narrator is pretty sure it's because he's drinking like a fish.
    • The first time Harry and the narrator meet, Harry's sitting on the stair landing in the boarding house, in a daze. They talk, and Harry explains that he is sitting there because of the araucaria plant and the nice, clean smell. He feels like he's at home.
    • After explaining how much he likes clean, middle-class homes, he invites the narrator upstairs to check out some books. And with that, they are pals.
    • He does, however, give off a weird vibe when he calls himself the Steppenwolf in that first meeting. But the narrator realizes it's the perfect nickname for his new friend: he's like a lost wolf that has come down into town and doesn't really fit in.
    • They also go to a concert together, and the narrator is really interested in the Steppenwolf's reaction, which is pretty meh.
    • Afterward, he follows him through the streets and they end up in an inn. The Steppenwolf drinks wine, but the narrator refuses and heads home.
    • The Steppenwolf comes home many hours later and sits up in his room for a while.
    • Another night, a young, pretty woman comes to the door and asks for Mr. Haller. She's the one from the pictures in the Steppenwolf's room, so the narrator lets her in.
    • When Harry gets home the two go out, but he comes back alone and seems pretty sad. The narrator also sees them one day, happy, strolling through the town.
    • But Harry seems to have a special trick for scaring away his girlfriend, because he comes home alone that day, too, also sad.
    • The narrator concludes that the Steppenwolf was suicidal, and that from one day to the next he disappeared, leaving behind only the records. They haven't seen or heard from him since, and the narrator thinks that a lot of what Harry wrote is made up, but he decides to publish it anyway.
  • Paragraphs 1-31

    • Welcome to the delicious chewy nougaty center of the book: Harry Haller's records. Heads up: we're dividing this book by paragraphs, not chapters. Paragraphs are really the only division.
    • Harry takes over narrating from here, so we´re dealing with a new "I". He´s had a rough day, the kind where you need someone to sing "Don´t Worry, Be Happy" to you and feed you ice cream. He's in that mood where you are so grouchy that you don't even want to feel better.
    • Still in his mood, Harry decides to take a walk in the town. On his way out he notices the araucaria tree on the stair landing and sits down to meditate, as is his weird habit.
    • Then he heads out. He wanders the streets, thinking about how hard it is to find the divine in everyday life. The kinds of thoughts everyone thinks when they're out on the town, right?
    • Harry finds his favorite wall in town (because everyone has a favorite wall?) and is surprised to see a doorway in the middle of it he hadn't noticed before. Then he notices that there is something written above the door, but the words are flashing like a neon sign so it's hard to read it.
    • Finally he manages to figure it out: "MAGIC THEATER: ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY."
    • Apparently Harry isn't just anybody, because he tries to get in. But the sign speaks the truth: the door is locked, and Harry is left out in the rain and mud. On his way back to the alley he came from he notices reflected words shining on the ground: "FOR MADMEN ONLY!"
    • Now that's a party we'd like to go to!
    • But Harry's not invited, apparently, so he keeps walking and ducks into a tavern. He starts drinking and reads a newspaper, then thinks about art for a while before he heads out into the rain again.
    • Harry decides to hate-listen to some jazz music outside of a dance hall, and gives a little spiel about how inferior the musical genre is compared with the classics.
    • Tempted by the mystery of the magically appearing doorway, he heads back to his good, old, favorite wall.
    • Suddenly a man shows up in the alley, holding a tray like he is selling tchotchkes. He also carries a banner that says: "ANARCHIST EVENING ENTERTAINMENT/ MAGIC THEATER/ ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY"
    • Harry's pretty excited and wants to find out about the evening entertainment, but the man just tells him that it's not for everybody. When Harry tries to buy something from him the man hands him a little book, and then disappears.
    • Harry heads home and gets the book out of his pocket. He's shocked to see that it's entitled Treatise on the Steppenwolf. Not for Everybody. How do you like them apples?
  • Paragraphs 32-42

    • He opens the booklet, and reads all about him, Harry, the Steppenwolf. It talks about how he doesn't know how to be happy, and that he blames this on his being a wolf instead of a man. It explains that Harry thinks he has two natures, the human and the wolf. The problem is, his two natures are at war. Ever feel like that?
    • When Harry is a wolf, according to the book, he treats everyone badly and drives the people who love him away. When he's a man he thinks lovely thoughts, but the Steppenwolf shuts that right down with a quick snarl.
    • The book says that guys like our wolf man hero Harry are actually pretty common, especially artists. You know, extreme guys who are unhappy because they are always at war with themselves.
    • It's not just Harry's soul that is pried open in the book; it also gets into his sleeping habits, noting that Harry is a night owl who can't seem to get up in the morning. Five more minutes. Please.
    • It also points out that he's Mr. Lonely, and suicidal. But before you get too worried, the book goes on to explain that actually the thought of suicide gives Harry strength.
    • It's kinda like an escape hatch; he always has it as an option in his back pocket if things get too tough, and that security gives him strength to keep going. Seems a little paradoxical, but hey, what do you expect from a free book handed out by a mysterious man in the middle of the night?
    • You might think 18, 21, and 30 are big age milestones, but for Harry 50 is the biggie. We meet him when he's close to fifty, and the book says that that's the age he has reserved for his big suicidal exit.
  • Paragraphs 43-53

    • We're still reading the book over Harry's shoulder, and now it's getting political. It explains that the Steppenwolf stands outside of the bourgeoisie, or middle class.
    • Basically, the book says that the bourgeois is a weak figure that is easily ruled by governments, but that somehow still does pretty well in the world. They get their power, it turns out, from the Steppenwolves, the wild outsiders who still can't escape the bourgeoisie because even though they're loners they still respect the law and want to be good.
    • The book explains how the Steppenwolves are a pretty self-destructive bunch, and that only humor can cure them. So, in case you're a Steppenwolf, did we tell you the one about the dog who walked into a bar and said, "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw?" Hardy har har.
    • The book says that Harry might be able to find humor and save himself if he makes it to one of the magic theaters… whatever that means. It also says that the Steppenwolf knows this, and that he knows there is a mirror that will let him really know himself. Pretty mysterious!
  • Paragraphs 54-68

    • Don't worry, the creepy book that knows Harry's life story is almost over. It just wants to tell one more story. It explains that the whole idea of a Steppenwolf is a fiction: Harry isn't just divided into man and wolf, but rather a kabillion different natures.
    • It talks about ancient India, where individuality isn't really a thing; people are made up of a whole bunch of their incarnations
    • So Harry's suffering because he feels like he has two different natures inside of him is really pretty silly; actually he isn't doing his soul justice! He isn't just a wolf and a man; he's also a guppy, a cockroach, a mountain lion, an abominable snowman… anything you can think of!
    • Finally the book ends, says "goodbye" to Harry, and tells him that if he had already made it to where he was going he would realize how silly all of his troubles are.
  • Paragraphs 69-341

    • Harry's back as narrator (thank goodness! That magic book was a little too wise…) and remembers that a few weeks ago he had written a poem about the Steppenwolf. He finds it and reads it.
    • It is a much nicer version of how cool and lonely and tortured the Steppenwolf is. So he's got two versions of himself: his own, in the poem, and the stranger's, in the book.
    • He remembers that his life is pretty much ruined: he has lost his job, his wife, and all his pals. No wonder he's such a grouch! He goes off on an emo sobfest for a while, and then he notices that it's already daytime, and decides that's a perfect cue to go to bed.
    • Harry wakes up at noon and remembers the time he tried to kill himself with painkillers. It didn't work, so he decided that next time he would use opium. He'd like to do it today, but actually he still has two years before his fiftieth birthday, his personal expiration date.
    • He rereads the book about himself (and who can blame him?) several times, and thinks it's a pretty good book. However, what's really on his mind is that church wall with the "For madmen only!" sign.
    • He decides he's mad enough, and goes looking for the man with the signboard.
    • He can't find him or the door, and he starts thinking about who the important people in his life are. He thinks about Erica, his girlfriend, but they fight every time they see each other and he actually doesn't even know where she lives.
    • He follows a passing funeral procession (like you do?) and ends up in the graveyard (like you do?) He is really judgy about the funeral service, thinking about how the people seem to be forcing themselves to be sad.
    • Then, Harry notices the guy who gave him the book walking away. He catches up and, trying to be James-Bond smooth, asks him if there's a show tonight. The guy gets irritated and tells him to go to the Black Eagle if he wants a show. Harry suddenly isn't sure that he even had the right guy.
    • Later on Harry runs into an old professor friend of his, and gets roped into a dinner at the guy's house. Even though he seemed excited about going, by the time he gets home he is in an awful mood and doesn't want to see his friend and his wife. He takes some pills and reads, then washes up for dinner.
    • At his friend's house he notices an engraving of Goethe, and it really gets Harry's goat. He really thinks that it's a terrible representation of one of his heroes, and is mulling over just how mad it makes him when the professor's wife comes in.
    • She sticks her foot in her mouth, asking about Harry's wife, and he tells her they're divorced. Finally his buddy comes in and starts complaining about some jerk he read about in the newspaper that doesn't believe that Germany is the most special place in the world. It turns out that Harry is that jerk (awkward!) but he doesn't say anything.
    • The friend calls the guy in the paper a traitor, which sends Harry into a downward spiral of depression, but luckily dinner is on the table and they all go to sit down. Unfortunately, all of his best jokes fall flat, and it's a dud of a dinner. (He should have tried the one about the dog and the bar.)
    • After dinner Harry just can't keep it in, and criticizes the picture of Goethe. This hurts the lady's feelings and she leaves; Harry's friend tells him that the picture is his wife's prized possession. Harry says he's sorry, explaining that he's insane, and mentions that he is the traitor his friend had been talking about earlier and that he's insulted. Then he leaves. What a night!
    • Harry goes out wandering the streets. He goes into some bars, getting more and more afraid of going home because he knows that he will face death there.
    • Finally he makes it to a place called "The Black Eagle" (sound familiar?) and sees a pretty girl. He sits down with her and they have a chat.
    • Harry tells the girl that he can't go home, and that he'd like to stay with her.
    • She's pretty nice, and decides they should drink wine. Then she goes into mother hen mode, making Harry eat a sandwich and drink.
    • When she tries to make him dance, though, Harry fails her, because he doesn't know how.
    • She reminds him of somebody from his childhood, but he isn't sure who.
    • The girl is shocked that Harry knows so much about every subject but isn't able to dance, and gives him a hard time.
    • He tells her his troubles, like the annoying picture of Goethe, and the girl tells him she understands him.
    • She teases him for only talking about himself, and for not even asking her name. When he does ask, though, she refuses to tell him. Then she goes off to dance, and tells Harry to take a nap while he waits.
    • While he sleeps, Harry dreams that he is waiting to speak to Goethe. There is also a scorpion climbing up his leg, which he shakes off.
    • He worries that maybe he's at the wrong poet's place, and while he waits he wonders about the scorpion's identity.
    • Finally he's called in to meet Goethe, who gives him a speech about how young people aren't appreciative enough.
    • Harry explains to Goethe that the problem is that, even though Goethe knew all about hopelessness, he wrote all about its opposite, giving people hope. The nerve!
    • Goethe really gets Harry's goat, telling him that if he only wants hopelessness he must really hate Mozart's The Magic Flute. Oh, burn. That is Harry's favorite.
    • It turns out that Goethe, like Harry, was very frightened of death, and he tells Harry that in the end everybody has to quit playing and die. Then he tells Harry not to take dead people so seriously, and that they like joking.
    • Harry remembers the scorpion, which he has decided is Molly, the subject of the poet Bürger's love poems, and asks Goethe if she's around.
    • Goethe laughs and opens a box, and shows Harry a little miniature woman's leg inside the box. Harry is immediately in love with the leg and tries to grab it, but it moves and he realizes it might be the scorpion.
    • Goethe teases Harry, holding the scorpion/leg up close to his face. He starts cracking up when Harry jumps and turns into a very, very old man.
    • Finally Harry wakes up and forgets the dream. The girl is back, and asks him for some money.
    • She tells him she has to leave for a date with a guy, and Harry is sad. She tells him that he should have invited her out if he wanted to go out with her, which is pretty logical, really.
    • Harry finally takes a hint and invites the girl out for dinner on Tuesday.
    • As they are leaving, the girl tells Harry that she understands him for getting mad at the Goethe picture; she gets mad about pictures of saints, too, because they don't look like how she imagines them.
    • They say goodbye, but Harry decides to rent a room at the inn above the bar so he doesn't scandalize his landlady by coming in so late.
    • He comes on in the next day and the landlady just laughs at him for his wild night. She gives him some tea and they chat. He tells her that all scientific discoveries are really nothing new; the ancients already knew all the tricks of finding facts and forces, but the modern scientists are finding new ways to tap into it, like with radios and other newfangled nonsense.
    • Harry is pretty antsy about his date with the girl from the Black Eagle. Even though he's still scared of killing himself, she gives him some hope to hold onto.
    • He brings her a couple of orchids, and she laughs at him for it. She asks him if he'll learn to dance and he says yes.
    • Then he asks her her name. She tells him that he should guess. He realizes she looks like his friend Herman, from childhood, so he guesses Hermine. She nods. Kind of fishy to imagine that he could really guess her name, right? Harry asks her how she got herself to look like a boy and make him guess, and she tells him he did it himself.
    • Hermine reminds Harry that he promised to obey her, and tells him that he is going to have to fall in love with her and also fulfill her last command. Ominous much?
    • Harry can guess what it will be, and she finally tells him that he will fall in love with her and then he will kill her.
    • Then they eat, like everything is normal. What an awesome first date?
    • He tells her about the Steppenwolf book, and she's heard of it. She asks Harry if he's the Steppenwolf, and he says he is. Hermine thinks that it is silly to think of animals as uncivilized and humans as civilized, when really a lot of animals are pretty well-behaved.
    • The next day the two lovebirds meet again and Hermine is happy to have found some more newspapers trashing Harry's name because he opposed the war.
    • He is through with being annoyed by it.
    • She makes him buy a record player and music so that she can teach him to dance in his room.
    • They go home to practice, and Hermine checks out the picture of Erica, Harry's girlfriend. She tries to teach him the foxtrot and he is definitely not a natural. After some lessons though he gets better.
    • Then Hermine ups the ante, and makes Harry dance in public with her. He is terrified, but gets it done. He also meets Hermine's friend, the saxophone player in the band, and our little Steppenwolf gets a case of jealousy. It doesn't help that the sax man is a great dancer.
    • Hermine gets onto Harry for not asking anyone to dance, so he picks a really pretty girl and asks her. Luckily she knows how to lead, and they take a spin.
    • Hermine is proud of her student and tells him that in three weeks they'll go to the Masked Ball to show off his skills.
    • Pablo, the saxophonist, comes over to chat with Hermine, and Harry is pretty irritated by the guy. He thinks he's not very serious and is—horror of all horrors—into jazz.
    • Later Pablo tells Hermine that he feels sorry for Harry because he doesn't know how to laugh.
    • Now Harry gets to dance with Hermine, which he really digs. She thinks that they are kindred spirits, in fact children of the devil.
    • She asks him how he liked Maria, the girl he danced with, and Hermine encourages him to get it on with Maria. He doesn't think he can hack it because he's an old man.
    • For Hermine, though, since he's a baby at dancing, Harry is really just a child. She also reminds him to quit being such a snob about music, since it turns out he liked all the jazz and dance music.
  • Paragraphs 342-400

    • Harry is starting to be convinced about this crazy idea of everyone having thousands of souls instead of just one or two. However, he doesn't really like losing his individuality. Hermine becomes his lifeline as he loses his grip on reality.
    • Harry starts hanging out more with Pablo and decides maybe he's not such a bad guy after all, even though he doesn't really pay much attention when Harry gives him lectures on this or that subject.
    • Even though Pablo isn't a good student, he's a good provider of drugs, so Harry starts taking some special concoctions that Pablo gives him.
    • One day Harry asks Pablo why he doesn't ever offer his opinion on music and music theory when Harry asks him questions. Pablo says that it's because he makes music, he doesn't have to talk about it.
    • Another day, Harry comes home to find lovely Maria lying in his bed waiting for him. It was Hermine's doing (are you starting to get an idea of what she must do for a living?) and Harry enjoys the present.
    • Harry thinks a lot about music and suicide, and gets sad and drinks and dances. Sometimes Maria comes around again, and that cheers him up a good deal.
    • Maria teaches Harry all about love, in a new way that he hadn't explored before. She shows him new places and techniques, and seems to be in love with Pablo, too.
    • This revelation makes Harry wonder whether Maria can like a grey-haired guy like him, and she assures him that she likes him a lot.
    • In the morning Harry has to sneak Maria out so no one will see them, and in the afternoons Hermine comes over for dancing lessons.
    • The three weeks leading up to the costume ball are very happy for Harry. Is that really a surprise, given that he's got several girlfriends and all the dancing he can handle?
    • One night, while they're getting high on opium, Pablo suggests that he, Harry, and Maria have a threesome. Harry isn't into it, which is disappointing to his kinky pals, but he does leave his eyes closed and let Pablo kiss him, pretending he thinks it's Maria.
    • Pablo asks Harry to trade him one night with Maria for some money, which is offensive to Harry. He would rather just lend Pablo the money, who uses it for some medicine for his violinist.
    • Harry discovers that Hermine and Maria are closer friends than he realized, and that they have their own lovemaking sessions. This opens his eyes up to some new possibilities, if you know what we mean… wink.
  • Paragraphs 401-448

    • Harry is all jazzed about the costume ball, and is even getting pretty good at getting down with his bad self.
    • Hermine won't tell him what her costume is going to be, and he's really curious to know.
    • She asks Harry if he's happy, and he says he is, but (waaah-waaah) he doesn't like it. He wants to feel unhappy, but not the kind of unhappy he was before he met her. It's a new kind.
    • He used to be unhappy because he was afraid to die and also suicidal at the same time (a bit of a problem). Now he wants to find a nobler unhappiness, which will make him ready to die.
    • Hermine tells him that their problem is that they have visions of greatness inside of them, but that their lives are pretty boring after all. She blames reality for not giving them the chance to go through great trials and adventures to fulfill their potential.
    • What people like Hermine and Harry need, according to Hermine, is the hope that there is more to life than just life… that there is a world outside, or another life. That's the hope that Mozart gives, like Goethe said in Harry's dream, earlier.
    • After their deep conversation, Harry has to go to Maria, because she has promised to give him the last night before the big party.
    • He keeps thinking about what Hermine said as he walks to Maria's, and decides that when Goethe laughed at the end of his dream the first night he met Hermine, it was the laughter of the immortals, after having lived through many lives and sufferings.
    • While he waits for Maria at a restaurant, Harry gets inspired and writes a poem called "The Immortals" inspired by his epiphany.
    • Maria shows up and they start getting it on. They both recognize that it might be the last time they are together, because the day that Hermine wants Harry, they both know he'll go to her.
    • Harry's got a feeling that there are going to be some particularly exciting events at the next night's party.
  • Paragraphs 449-582

    • After his sleepless night with Maria (wink, nudge) Harry snores the day away. In fact, he almost forgets about the ball that night, but remembers in the evening and gets his act together.
    • Harry decides to go back to one of the bars he used to frequent before he met Hermine to wait for the party to start.
    • It's still too early to go to the party, so he goes to see a movie while he waits until it's a good time for him to make his fashionably late entrance.
    • The movie is about the Old Testament, with Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. (It might have been this one)
    • After the movie he finally gets up the courage to head over to the costume ball. It's already a rip-roaring, epic fest when he gets there, and everyone's having a great time.
    • He checks his coat and puts his ticket in his pocket, because he's got a feeling that he'll be heading out soon.
    • The party is in a huge building and there is dancing with different types of music in every room.
    • Harry sees Pablo playing in one room, and keeps wandering to look for Hermine and Maria.
    • He's losing steam, and instead of joining the festivities decides to sit and drink wine like an old grouch. In fact, one girl calls him "Old Growler" because he won't dance with her.
    • The Steppenwolf is out in full force in Harry's psyche, and he decides to just go home and feel sorry for himself. When he gets to the coatroom, though, he can't find his ticket.
    • A little guy dressed as a devil gives him a ticket and says he can just use his, which doesn't really make sense, because there's no way Harry could fit into his coat, but he takes it anyway.
    • The ticket isn't a number at all, though – it's a secret message. It says: "TONIGHT AT THE MAGIC THEATER/ FOR MADMEN ONLY/ PRICE OF ADMITTANCE YOUR MIND/ NOT FOR EVERYBODY/ HERMINE IS IN HELL."
    • This really wakes Harry up and he decides to go looking for Hermine, who is in one of the basement rooms (not real hell, don't worry).
    • Maria, dressed as a flamenco dancer, tries to get Harry to dance with her, but he just kisses her and continues on his hunt for Hermine.
    • He can't find Hermine, but he does run into Herman, his boyhood friend, sitting at the bar downstairs.
    • Gotcha! It's not Herman at all, but Hermine dressed as a boy. This means that Harry can't dance with her or kiss her (apparently it would be scandalous for people to think he was dancing with a real man, even though this is a wild party).
    • They sit and drink champagne, and at one point Hermine/Herman takes a girl out to dance and they disappear. When Hermine comes back she tells Harry that she and the girl made love.
    • Harry gets into the proper party mood and dances with lots of girls, including the one who called him "Old Growler" earlier.
    • He finally figures out why people like parties so much (bet you didn't know that was a hard one to figure out).
    • Pablo, playing in the band, is thrilled that his friend Harry is finally learning to be happy.
    • Suddenly Harry sees a girl coming toward him dressed as a Pierrette, a sad clown and is gob smacked by her beauty.
    • Everyone else looks a mess from their wild partying, but she looks fresh as a daisy.
    • Harry goes over and kisses the new girl, and figures out it's Hermine in a new costume. They dance and dance until the sun comes up and they are the last diehards left in the party.
    • Hermine asks if Harry's ready and oh, boy, is he.
    • Suddenly Pablo shows up and invites Harry to some entertainment "for madmen only." Harry and Hermine follow him to a round room with a table and three chairs in it.
    • Pablo explains that he has invited them to the entertainment Harry has been looking for all this time, and gives them something to drink and some funny cigarettes.
    • Then, Pablo pulls a mirror out of his pocket and gives it to Harry. He looks into it and sees his own reflection, Harry Haller, and also the Steppenwolf.
    • Pablo invites them to a peep show in his little theater, so they follow him into a U-shaped hallway, like a theater lobby, that has a lot of doors leading into the auditorium.
    • Pablo tells him that what he's really looking for is to lose his personality, because it is a prison to him, locking him into his battle between Harry and the Steppenwolf. What he needs to do is look into the doors and see all the other options he has.
    • Hermine heads off to the right, and Harry goes to the left.
    • Pablo shows Harry the mirror one more time, and tells him to erase the reflection that only shows Harry and the wolf. As he looks at his reflection, he starts laughing. The glass turns gray and the reflection disappears.
    • This is just what he was supposed to do: laugh. Pablo tells him that he will learn to laugh like the immortals, like Goethe.
    • Now Harry looks into a gigantic mirror on the wall, and sees himself thousands of times over, at different ages.
    • One of his reflections jumps out of the mirror into Pablo's arms and they go laughing away together.
    • A teenaged version of Harry also jumps out, and Harry follows him down the curved hallway. The boy enters a doorway that says "ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS/ ONE QUARTER IN THE SLOT."
    • Harry keeps walking and goes through a door that reads: "JOLLY HUNTING/ GREAT HUNT IN AUTOMOBILES."
    • He enters a war zone where people are fighting against machines. One of his friends from school, Gustav, shows up, and starts shooting at the drivers of cars. They embed themselves next to a road and shoot the cars that come by.
    • Harry shoots one chauffeur, and then Gustav shoots the next. This car turns over and explodes, so they have to get down and clear the road for more victims.
    • Harry searches the pockets of one of their victims and finds a card that says "Tat Twam Asi" (What in the world? That's Sanskrit for "You are That" or "That you are" and comes from an important Hindu text. It means, roughly, that each individual is part of a great whole.)
    • The pair keeps shooting cars, but one of them stops and a pretty girl gets out. One of the passengers, an old man, has also survived and is hiding behind the dead chauffeur.
    • The man says that he is the attorney general and wants to know why they shot him.
    • They say it's because they were speeding, even though it isn't true; in their eyes, all cars are going too fast.
    • The attorney general says he wants to be destroyed along with his car. The girl, his stenographer, faints.
    • Another car shows up and Gustav and Harry make the people in it get out.
    • They make the men take the attorney general with them on to town.
    • The stenographer, Dora, comes to, and they all three climb up a tree to hide.
    • Harry and Gustav teach Dora how to load the guns and they keep shooting cars.
    • They start to feel guilty for all of their killing, even though it is a war, and Dora asks if they can leave. She and Harry start to climb down, and he kisses her knee on the way. She laughs, and they fall from the tree into nothingness.
  • Paragraphs 583-647

    • Back in the theater hallway, Harry reads signs on the doors. He chooses one that says "GUIDANCE IN THE BUILDING UP OF THE PERSONALITY. SUCCESS GUARANTEED." Inside the room there is a man sitting in front of a chessboard. He kind of looks like Pablo.
    • However, the guy says he is not anybody, that no one has names here.
    • The Pablo lookalike asks Harry for his pieces, by which he means all the little pieces his personality broke up into when he looked into the mirror. It turns out all those little Harrys turned into GI Joe-like action figures in his pocket, so he gives them to the chess player.
    • The chess player explains that the self is not limited to one individual; that there are thousands of possibilities for every life.
    • He starts playing with Harry's pieces by arranging them, and they start living out little societies there. It is all very interesting to Harry.
    • The cool thing about the game is that it shows Harry that even if a piece has bad luck in one life, like Skee-Lo, he might be a huge baller in the next.
    • Harry gathers up his pieces and takes off, planning to go sit in the hall and play the game himself. But in the hallway he sees an irresistible sign on a door: "MARVELOUS TAMING OF THE STEPPENWOLF."
    • He goes in and sees a sort of circus scene where a man is taming a wolf. The wolf does everything the man says, just like a trained dog. This is terrible for Harry, who didn't like to see the wolf's spirit broken.
    • Part two is much cooler, though. The wolf suddenly becomes wild, and now the man has to do what he says.
    • Uh-oh! A pretty girl comes onto the stage and the wolf goes nuts and scares her off. Then he rips a rabbit to shreds.
    • This is too much for Harry, and he runs out.
    • He can taste the rabbit's blood in his own mouth, and is terrified as he runs through the hallways.
    • Harry remembers the door his teenaged self had gone through at the beginning of the crazy entertainment, and goes back to it. The sign says "ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS."
    • Inside he is back in his hometown, in the hills.
    • The first girl he ever liked, Rosa Kreisler, walks by. In real life Harry had been shy, but here in the theatre he gets up the courage to tell her he loves her.
    • They become boyfriend and girlfriend (sitting in a tree), and from there Harry relives all the loves that he never had in real life.
    • Anyone he ever had the slightest crush on shows up, and he gets to experience what it would have been life if he had actually gotten to love them—even Pablo!
    • Harry ends up back in the hallway and sees another door that says "HOW ONE KILLS FOR LOVE." Yeah, this isn't going to be pretty.
    • He suddenly remembers the day that Hermine made him promise he would kill her. He thinks that if he uses the little figurines he might be able to change the course of things, but when he reaches into his pocket for them all he finds is a knife.
    • Harry runs away down the hallway and ends up in front of the mirror.
    • The only person he sees in the reflection this time is his old self. He talks to himself, and the reflection tells him that he is waiting for death.
    • He suddenly hears music coming from the theater, and it's the part of the opera Don Giovanni that means that a dead guy, "the stone guest" is showing up (it's pretty cool; check it out here). Not surprisingly, it's by Mozart. If that's not drama, we don't know what is.
    • Remember how Harry talked to Goethe in one dream? Well, now Mozart shows up, laughing like a loon (for a really fun cinematic version of Mozart's laugh, look at Amadeus)
    • Mozart tells Harry that they are in the last act of his opera Don Giovanni. And once again, Harry goes all brainiac and starts listing all the important composers. Mozart cuts him off and shows him the composers Brahms and Wagner (see the shout-outs for more on those guys) being punished because their music had way too much fluff, parts that could be taken out.
    • Harry thinks that's ironic because Brahms and Wagner were considered to be extreme opposites (listen to Brahms vs. Wagner for a taste). Now these guys who were supposed to be totally different are being punished for the same crime…
    • Mozart explains that the problem wasn't personal; both of the composers were products of their time.
    • Harry doesn't think it's fair that they should pay the price for something that wasn't their own fault, but was history's fault.
    • Mozart just explains that life is pretty much frightful and that everyone is born with original sin ever since Adam and Eve.
    • When Harry gets sad, Mozart starts teasing him with word games and laughing at him. Harry can't take it anymore and grabs Mozart by his ponytail, but it starts stretching and they fly through space.
    • Harry loses consciousness.
  • Paragraphs 648-689

    • When Harry wakes up he's back in the hallway.
    • He sees himself in the mirror again. Now he's an old man who's had all the experiences that Harry just had in the magic theater.
    • Harry kicks the mirror and shatters his reflection. He knows that Hermine is waiting for him.
    • He opens the last door, and sees Hermine and Pablo, naked, sleeping on a rug.
    • She's got a hicky on her torso and he uses it as his target, plunging his knife right in.
    • Hermine wakes up a little bit, but then shuts her eyes and dies.
    • Pablo stretches and smiles after he sees the dead Hermine.
    • Coldness and music starts coming from Hermine's corpse.
    • He remembers some lines from his own poem, "The Immortals", which he had written earlier that night.
    • Mozart shows up again, and sets up a radio.
    • Harry freaks out, because he hates the way classical music sounds on the radio, all metallic and distorted. Mozart just laughs, and tells him he has to figure out what he should take seriously and when he could just laugh.
    • Then Mozart asks Harry if it was right to stab Hermine. Harry says, no, that he's a beast, and says that it was what Hermine wanted.
    • Mozart laughs and turns off the radio.
    • Harry starts to wonder why he had murdered Hermine, and thinks that maybe it was what he wanted, not her.
    • Mozart tells Harry it's time to face the consequences.
    • He ends up in a prison yard, and the public prosecutor declares him guilty because he has no humor and tried to use the magic theater for suicide. He is sentenced to eternal life and being laughed out of the court.
    • Everybody laughs and laughs.
    • Harry wakes up with Mozart again, who explains to him that his punishment is life because he wants to die.
    • Mozart transforms into Pablo, and gives Harry a funny cigarette.
    • Pablo tells Harry that he's disappointed that Harry didn't see the humor in the theater. He hopes that at least he killed Hermine out of jealousy.
    • Harry knows that he'll try again, and someday he'll learn how to laugh.