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HARRY HALLER'S RECORDS
Harry has read and reread the Treatise. He finds a despairing verse he wrote recently about himself as the wolf. He dismisses it as nonsense.
Hesse was equally famous as a poet and novelist. Germans considered him one of their finest poets since Heinrich Heine (1797-1859). The poem Harry finds is a poem by Hesse in the group titled "Steppenwolf: a Bit of Diary in Verse," written while he was planning the novel, later published (1928) with the title Crisis. It is a gory hunting poem with sexual implications.
Both the Treatise and the poem impress him as truthful-and both fill him with despair. He falls into one of his interior monologues, in this case a flashback recalling past crises: his disgrace as a pacifist and the loss of his vocation (meaning his audience as a writer), his wife's insanity with the resulting loss of his home and family. Each time his life has been shattered and he has remade it, each time with some new insight gained but at the cost of a more solitary and sadder life than before. He sees himself as an outsider to all aspects of society, and he doubts whether all his efforts to rebuild his life in the past were worthwhile. Now he faces another such effort, but this time he will not go through with it. He will make an end of it.
Haller's list of crises is Hesse's own: his pacifism in World War I when many Germans branded him a traitor, his wife's insanity, his permanent self-exile to Switzerland. Hesse was suffering from a severe depression when he began to write Steppenwolf. Haller's crisis is also a form of depression.
The choice of suicide as a way of avoiding a confrontation with the self is recognized in psychoanalytic theory, and Harry states it in these terms. He has attempted suicide before, with an overdose of the opium he takes for his gout and arthritis. This time he will do it properly, with a razor or a gun.
The Treatise teasingly suggested that he wait until he is fifty-two years more-but the door to escape stands open. Daylight is dawning when he finally goes to bed.
Waking at noon, Harry has not changed his mind about suicide but he is now preoccupied with the events of the previous evening. He sets out to find the vanishing door, the flickering sign, the peddler. He follows a funeral, accosts a man he takes to be the peddler, and is told to go to a tavern called the Black Eagle. He meets a young professor he knows and gratefully accepts an invitation while the other Harry within him grins at his hypocrisy.
The visit is a disaster. The professor talks of someone named Haller as a pacifist and traitor. The professor's wife has a sentimental portrait of Goethe that outrages Harry, who makes some rude remarks and leaves.