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11. Catharsis is a word of Greek origin meaning a cleansing or purging. It
came to mean the effect of a work of art in cleansing the emotions, removing
what is painful or destructive in them by giving them expression in an
art form. This principle was voiced by the Greek philosopher Aristotle
in the fourth century B.C. Hermann Hesse was in a deeply depressed state
when he began to write Steppenwolf, and it became his most autobiographical
novel. In it he transferred his psychological distress and his experiences
with people and events first into his central character, Harry Haller,
and then into Harry's fantasy experiences in the Magic Theater. In this
way both the fictional Harry and the author Hesse achieved release from
their emotional suffering. In the novel, Harry resolves to go on and learn
to live better. Hesse recovered from his depression and within a few years
entered into his third marriage, which proved successful.
12. While Hesse did not identify psychoanalytic symbols in his novel, readers have interpreted them and given them the technical names they have in psychoanalytic theory. The wolf of the steppes, Harry's second self, is seen as the "shadow" in the theory according to Carl Gustav Jung. This is the side of an individual's personality that is unacceptable to his conscious self and is therefore suppressed. Hermine is interpreted as Harry's "anima," in Jungian theory the feminine side of the male individual, which he suppresses as an unacceptable weakness and may project onto his wife or mistress, as Harry projects his anima onto Hermine. The shattering of Harry's mirrored image into many pieces represents the breaking up of the personality into its multiple aspects, to be reshaped into better harmony by psychoanalysis. Magic, as in the Magic Theater, is identified in Jungian theory with the unconscious. The automobile in Harry's fantasy hunt is a symbol of death. Harry's obsession with death-suicide, murder, execution-in one interpretation is a longing to escape from the necessity of confronting one's unconscious. Hermann Hesse was familiar with the work of Sigmund Freud and underwent psychoanalysis with a pupil of Freud's Swiss disciple, Jung, who formulated his own psychoanalytic system.
13. Harry Haller in his interior monologues repeatedly expresses his disgust with the bourgeoisie, or middle class, for its materialism, its planned avoidance of extremes of feeling, and its orderly way of life. Yet he chooses middle-class lodgings. He enjoys the smell of furniture polish and floor wax in his landlady's hallway, and he makes a kind of temple out of the foyer with its immaculate potted plants. The Treatise analyzes this contradiction as stemming from Harry's middle-class upbringing, from which he has never been able to escape. Harry himself recognizes it as a kind of homesickness for the setting of his childhood. He sadly realizes that he can never recapture that lost home, but also that he cannot accept its values and so must always be in conflict.
14. A "framework" novel is one introduced by an apparently realistic preface to an unrealistic memoir. Hesse used this structure in Demian in 1919 and The Glass Bead Game in 1943, as well as in Steppenwolf in 1927. Its literary function is to give a commonsense introduction, by an observer, to a narrative that may be a fantasy. In Steppenwolf the Preface is by a conventional neighbor of Harry Haller. This narrator's description of Harry as a real though eccentric individual lends solidity to Harry as a character and contributes to the credibility of the fantastic experiences that Harry himself narrates. As a literary device, the framework offers a dramatic contrast for the body of the novel.