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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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SECTION SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

PART I: Preface

Summary

The Preface contains the manuscript of a man called Steppenwolf. The Editor of the manuscript knows very little about the writer except what he has learned through the thoughts recorded in his writing. The Editor has decided to publish the manuscript, for he feels that it talks about problems that are common to all people.

Steppenwolf is really Harry Haller. The Editor became acquainted with him while they both stayed at his aunt's boarding house. Haller, who was widely traveled, obviously suffered from poor health and poor spirit. Once the Editor persuaded Haller to attend a lecture with him by a celebrated historian, who was also an art critic. The lecture was superficial and disappointing. Although Haller said nothing about the lecture, he had a look of disappointment, despair, and frustration at its conclusion. The Editor realized that Haller was a gifted man who hated any mediocrity, especially that in himself.

Haller leads a disorganized and unconventional life. He gets up late and skips meals. Keeping busy by reading and thinking, Haller mostly stays in his room, which is always untidy. When he does emerge, he refers to himself as Steppenwolf, without explaining the reason. The Editor once observed him at a concert, where he seemed happy and involved in the music of Handel, Bach, and Reger. As soon as the concert was over, he again appeared sad and discontented.


The Editor notices that Steppenwolf shows respect to any woman, including the maid. Still, he is surprised when one evening a pretty girl comes and asks for Haller. Even though Steppenwolf goes out with her, he returns after an hour and is as sad and dreary as ever. Then one day Steppenwolf pays his bill at the boarding house and vanishes without a word of explanation or farewell. He leaves behind nothing but a manuscript with a note that the Editor may do with it what he pleases.

The Editor cannot verify the truth of what Steppenwolf has written, but he feels that it is based upon spiritual events to which he has given a tangible form. He finds the manuscript to be split between a diseased personality and beautiful and thoughtful illusions. The illusions are not mere pathological fancies of an isolated person, but capture the sickness that pervades all of humanity, including the weak, the virtuous and the gifted. The fantasies take the reader on a journey through hell, chaos and darkness; but they end with self-realization. The Editor decides to publish the manuscript in order to allow the reader to judge its usefulness for himself/herself.

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