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The Transformation of Harry Haller in Steppenwolf

A “dazzling” line “flashes” before Harry Haller’s eyes (Hesse 194). It says, “Marvelous Taming of the Steppenwolf” (194). By this statement, one must realize Hermann Hesse’s final goal for his character of Harry Haller. One also should note that all of this “taming” and these other wild events are taking place in the psyche of Harry Haller, not in reality. Hesse draws on the ideas of his generation’s psychologists, such as Carl Jung, to guide Harry Haller’s transformation. At the same time, the dreamlike experiences Haller has have great significance in reality. This symbolic aspect of the Steppenwolf puts the struggle of Haller’s ego in perspective for the reader.

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The concept of the Steppenwolf itself is an important psychological image for determining the mind processes of Hesse’s character. The “wolf of the steppes” serves many purposes in describing Haller (Hesse 4). His “wolfishness” sets him apart from all others. It echoes reality, where the Steppenwolf is separate from others in his human form, too. This image of a wolf is often contrasted by an image of the “bourgeois” society as a flock of sheep, something that wolves do not mix with except to cause violence with. A lone wolf is always shifty -seeking contentment- and it suffers a pain of discomfort. The Steppenwolf is also quite wild, which is highlighted by the order and cleanliness of the rest of people around him. The order of the flowers in his apartment house, and the clean smell, amaze Haller, yet at the same time annoy his disheveled, crazy animal instincts. As another interpreter puts it, “The world of the bourgeoisie is etched [in] its contrasts with Harry’s world by the employment of symbol…

…eristics come out in a healthy mentality. This mental health, a turbulent process for Haller, is reached through a set of subconscious experiences that mirrored Haller’s real life. Each of the dreams he has -the meeting with Goethe, the Magic Theatre sign, the hall of mirrors- are inner trials that magnify his conscious emotions. Hermann Hesse changes Harry Haller’s conceptions of reality through a surreal adventure through Haller’s psyche.

Work Cited

Boulby, Mark. Hermann Hesse: His Mind and Art Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1972.

Freud, Sigmund. The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud Ed. & Trans. Dr. A. A. Brill. New York: Random House, 1938.

Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf New York: Owl Book, 1990.

Jacobi, Jolande. The Psychology of C. G. Jung New Haven, 1951.

Stelzig, Eugene. Hermann Hesse’s Fictions of the Self Princeton: Princeton UP, 1988

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