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HARRY HALLER'S RECORDS
"FOR MADMEN ONLY"
Harry Haller's first-person narrative is presented under these two titles. From here on, the novel is continuous except for the inserted Treatise and occasional spaces in the text to indicate a change of scene or a lapse of time. Watch how Hesse deals with both of these-the shift from reality to fantasy and back again, and the expansion and contraction of time-two technical aspects of the novel that you may find worth following.
Harry begins by describing the day just past as a day without either joy or pain, a "lukewarm" day of contentment that he detests most. He flees from the hateful comfort of his room to the dark and foggy street. On the way downstairs he stops, illogically, to savor the middle-class orderliness of the little foyer with its potted plants, his "temple."
The style of this passage echoes Harry's detestably comfortable day in three long, slow sentences, two paragraphs, and a total of 450 words. Watch how sentences take on a brisker rhythm as the pace of the story quickens.
Harry walks through the damp, narrow streets in the dusk. He is remembering his youth, when rain, storms, and lonely winter scenes moved him to write poetry. He still occasionally glimpses what he calls the golden track of inspired moments. He can't understand the pleasures of crowded bars and mass entertainments. He is in truth a steppenwolf, a beast of the wild, lost in the world of men.
He has often walked here, but now he sees a small doorway that he has never seen before, and then a flickering sign: MAGIC THEATER-ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY, and then FOR MADMEN ONLY! Baffled and chilled, he takes refuge in his usual tavern, one frequented by solitary men like himself. With his vision of the little door and the flickering sign, he has made his first crossing into an imaginary dimension.
The advertisement of the Magic Theater, NOT FOR EVERYBODY and FOR MADMEN ONLY! does more than quicken Harry's (and your) interest. It also refers to a psychological theory, popular at the time, that artistic talent was a sign of neurosis and that genius was closely related to insanity. FOR MADMEN ONLY is Hesse's allusion to that belief.
Harry eats a simple meal, drinks some pleasant wine, and is transported by a remembered bit of music into happy recollections. In a lovely bit of imagery, he compares the recollected melody to a soap bubble floating aloft, reflecting the world in miniature on its rainbow surface. He calls such moments of exalted spirit recapturing the "golden track"- would you call them consciousness-expanding?
Homeward bound, he is jolted by the raw sound of jazz from a dance hall. To Harry this is the music of decadence, miserable noise compared with "real" music such as that of Bach and Mozart. His detestation of jazz is combined with a secret hankering for it: he feels that its savage gaiety touches an "underworld of instinct" and has an honest sensuality. He prefers it to the academic music of his own day. The melody of jazz is like sugar and full of sentimentality but the rest is savage and vigorous, and the two parts go well together. He likes its sincerity, its childlike happiness. He finds it has something not only of the Black but of the American, who seems boyishly fresh and childlike to Europeans. He wonders whether he and the others who revere Europe's culture of the past are just a pigheaded minority devoted to a ghost long dead. Haller here is expressing the depression of intellectuals following World War I, when much of Europe's culture, especially Germany's, seemed to have been swept away forever. His ambivalence toward jazz, which he scorns and yet finds secretly attractive, is something to remember when you come to his later adventures.
Harry passes the old wall again-no flickering sign now, no little doorway. But a lone peddler suddenly appears, carrying a placard on which Harry reads, in dancing, reeling letters, ANARCHIST EVENING ENTERTAINMENT-MAGIC THEATER-ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY. Harry runs after the man, asking where the entertainment is, offering to buy something from him. The man hands him a booklet and disappears through a doorway.
At home again, Harry finds in his pocket the little book, poorly printed on cheap paper like the fortunetelling pamphlets sold on street corners. With a sense of impending fate he reads its title: "Treatise on the Steppenwolf. Not for Everybody."
From its languid beginning, the story has now become filled with suspense and the promise of interesting, perhaps even sinister events. How has Hesse accomplished this? As you review the devices he uses, you will see that he has taken you across the reality-fantasy boundary not once but twice. Now you are back in Harry's room and apparently back in reality. But are you? The street peddler's booklet is directly addressed to Harry as the Steppenwolf. How can that be? Is this really a pamphlet from a peddler?