Steppenwolf By Hermann Hesse Summary and Analysis Harry Haller's Records: Magic Theater, Gallery 1 (automobiles)

Summary

Everyone leaves, and Pablo invites Hermine and Steppenwolf into the Magic Theater. They enter a sparse room with a blue light where Pablo gives them cigarettes and drinks laced with mind-altering substances. Pablo tells Steppenwolf that the "elixir" will allow him to see "the world of your own soul that you seek. Only within yourself exists that other reality for which you long." Pablo holds up a small mirror and Steppenwolf sees two beings in the mirror: a "self-tormented" broken man and a "beautiful, dazed wolf with frightened eyes that smoldered now with anger, now with sadness."

The theater contains an endless number of boxes, each one a "pretty cabinet of pictures." Pablo tells Steppenwolf that he can only enter the theater and participate if he leaves his "valuable personality" behind. This requires "a trifling suicide." In order to abandon his self, Steppenwolf must look into the small mirror and laugh at himself. He does so, and the mirror turns black and opaque. Pablo applauds Steppenwolf and instructs him to look in the large mirror on the wall. Steppenwolf sees countless images of himself at all ages. Some of the Harrys jump out of the mirror, while others go off in different directions. A fifteen-year-old Harry jumps through the door labeled, "ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS. ONE QUARTER IN THE SLOT."

Steppenwolf enters the door "JOLLY HUNTING. GREAT HUNT IN AUTOMOBILES." Inside, a war is raging between humans and machines. Steppenwolf's old friend Gustav arrives. He is a theologian, but he discards his occupation in order to participate in the war. He does not care which side he fights on, but he chooses to fight against the manufacturers. He and Steppenwolf hide in a tree house and begin firing on every car that passes by. Gustav kills the attorney general after a spirited discussion about duty, but he spares a pretty stenographer for Steppenwolf. A man walks by and loots one of the cars. He is spared because his behavior is deemed "harmless and peaceable and childlike." Gustav and Steppenwolf are ashamed of their actions.

Analysis

The Magic Theater is second only to the treatise in importance. Most of the time Steppenwolf simply ponders his situation, but due to the treatise and the Magic Theater, Steppenwolf is transformed. It is important to note that, once again, Steppenwolf is not always willing to change. Previously, he accepted portions of the treatise but discarded other parts completely, especially the idea that the Magic Theater could be an alternative to suicide. Pablo anticipates Steppenwolf's residual hesitation, so he gives him drugs to make him more receptive and less inhibited.

The Magic Theater can be considered an experiment and/or a form of entertainment. Either way, it's a complete departure from reality. Steppenwolf is allowed to "see" himself and his two natures for the first time in a mirror. He does not like what he sees. The image of a tired and broken-down old man combined with a magnificent hungry wolf is disturbing in the least. However, once Steppenwolf laughs at his reflection, he is liberated. Pablo's statement, "Now, true humor begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously," relates back to Goethe's comment in the dream sequence. Steppenwolf's problem is that he takes everything too seriously. This is a lesson that Goethe pointed out and one that will be addressed again by Mozart.

Steppenwolf's first experience in the gallery is violent and symbolic. Steppenwolf has spent a considerable amount of time denigrating technology and scientific advancements. The wireless and the gramophone are just two examples. These inventions spoil art and mislead the masses. Up until this point, Steppenwolf has considered the idea of an individual listening to the wireless and/or dancing to the gramophone signs of mediocrity, in other words, bourgeois. However, when confronted with propaganda for both sides, he can't decide: "They were right, and I stood as deeply convinced in front of one as in front of the other. . . ."

Steppenwolf's reaction to the violence is the most profound aspect of the fantasy sequence. Once again, his actions within the gallery contradict his previous life. Steppenwolf has been labeled a traitor for his antiwar sentiments. He does not believe violence is a viable solution to any problem, either in the last war, or the one that he believes is coming. His behavior changes radically when he encounters Gustav. Suddenly, violence is not only acceptable, but desirable. At first it appears that the wolf has been released, but this is not necessarily true. Steppenwolf lays in wait for his victims, and then ambushes them with relish. Although he is predatory, Steppenwolf's behavior is more consistent with that of a cold calculated murderer rather than a wolf that pursues prey for food. One of his thousand souls is animated through this experience. He finds it both frightening and delightful.

Glossary

inexorable someone who cannot be moved or influenced by persuasion or entreaty; unrelenting.

stratum a section, level, or division, as of the atmosphere or ocean.

tributary a river flowing into a larger one.

inchoate just begun; in the early stages; incipient; rudimentary.

unfeigned genuine; real; sincere.

farce something absurd or ridiculous, as an obvious pretense.

multitudinous very numerous; many.

stove to break or crush inward.

ennoble to give a noble quality to; dignify.

fount a source.

gesticulated to make or use gestures, especially with the hands and arms, as in adding nuances or force to one's speech, or as a substitute for speech.

Bolshevik a Communist, especially of the Soviet Union; also refers loosely to any radical.

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Identify the source of the following quote: “You should not take old people who are already dead seriously. It does them injustice. We immortals do not like things to be taken seriously. We like joking. Seriousness, young man, is an accident of time.”




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