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The protagonist in the novel is Harry Haller. He suffers greatly from his dual personalities.
Haller's antagonist is his baser self, whom he calls Steppenwolf, the symbol of animalism in the protagonist. Haller struggles throughout the novel to overcome this part of himself and find peace.
The climax of the novel is reached when Haller, driven by despair, tries to commit suicide. When he survives, he knows his life must change.
The novel is tragic with the thread of despair running throughout. There is an element of hope, however, when the crisis in Haller's life is resolved in the Magic Theater. He becomes hopeful that the various aspects of his personality can live in harmony with each other.