Steppenwolf By Hermann Hesse Summary and Analysis Harry Haller's Records: Magic Theater, Gallery 4 (lovers)

Summary

Steppenwolf returns to the gallery labeled "ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS" as a refuge from the previous adventure. He is transported back in time to the day he met Rosa Kreisler. This is a magical experience for Steppenwolf because he revisits this moment in his life in the body of a fifteen-year-old boy, but with the mind of a fifty-year-old man. He is thrilled with the bodily sensations — the energy, the lust, the "fever."

Rosa appears and Steppenwolf raises his cap to her just as he did when he was a boy. Rosa smiles and continues walking. Their relationship never develops. Steppenwolf watches this replay of his past, but he is dissatisfied. He notices Rosa's blush and decides to change the outcome of the scene. This time he greets her and proclaims his love for her. She responds in like terms, and "everything went differently and everything was good." They spend their days together and grow to love one another. They share a kiss, and nothing more. After Rosa, Steppenwolf relives moments with all his loves — real, potential, and wished for — all the way up to Hermine. At that point, he stops. Rather than relive a moment with Hermine in the gallery, Steppenwolf exits in search of the real Hermine.

Analysis

The chess player prepared Steppenwolf for the fourth gallery, and it is a wonderful experience for him. Beginning with Rosa, Steppenwolf is able to revise history. This is not just about fixing mistakes, but about eliminating regret. Of course, the key to this is Steppenwolf's age. At the moment he was fifteen, he did not realize that he was making a mistake by not revealing his feelings to Rosa. It is only the old Steppenwolf who has experienced regret and is determined to change the outcome. Reworking the past gives him great satisfaction: "Now, however, the blunder was put right."

The series of encounters and relationships with women, and Pablo, are important on several levels. First, Steppenwolf realizes that his love for Rosa was the purest possible: "all the love and all the joy that was in us were ours." This is a double-edge sword, for even though he can relive this moment with Rosa and change the past, Steppenwolf can only do so within the Magic Theater. Thus, realizing that he has lost his first love — the purest love he will ever have — causes him more sorrow than not knowing.

Rosa also serves as a basis of comparison for every subsequent woman he meets. "[M]y past life and loves had all been false and perplexed and full of stupid unhappiness from that very moment on a Sunday afternoon when I had let Rosa pass me by." He resolves not to make the same mistake again and chooses to relive every moment, whether real or fantasy. Again, Steppenwolf is acting on the treatise's notion of a thousand souls. Each vision and revision of his past requires him to animate one of his souls.

Finally, Steppenwolf realizes that his previous despair and loneliness are false. Even though Steppenwolf chose to live in isolation before meeting Hermine, his despondency was unfounded. He states, "And it astonished me to find how rich my life — the seemingly so poor and loveless life of the Steppenwolf — had been in the opportunities and allurements of love." He is a man who is dissatisfied with bourgeois society and all it represents, but he is a man who has known love throughout various stages of his life. These experiences have enriched him and prepared him for his final conquest: Hermine.

Glossary

transfiguration a situation in which one changes the figure, form, or outward appearance of; a transformation.

perplexed hard to understand; confusing.

troth faithfulness; loyalty.

plighted to pledge or promise, or bind by a pledge.

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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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