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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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PART II: Harry Haller's Records

Summary

Steppenwolf begins his story with an account of a typically uneventful day in his life. He goes down the steep stairs of his boarding house and notices that they are well-brushed and clean. Steppenwolf has a special liking for spotlessly ordered middle- class homes of the bourgeoisie. With a cheerful light-heartedness, he goes outside and moves through the wet, narrow streets of the town. The weather causes him to reflect on his youth. He remembers the time when he had loved the dark, sad evenings of early autumn and winter. He also remembers how he would imbibe the loneliness and melancholy of the rains and storm of winter. He then recalls a concert of lovely old music that he has recently attended. After hearing two or three notes of the piano, a door suddenly opened to another world, and for a short while he saw God at work. The same image returned to him in a dream.

As he walks, Steppenwolf notices a stone wall, between the hospital and church. He thinks perhaps it has been recently painted, drawing his attention. Though it is dark, he sees certain letters appearing and vanishing on the wall. He realizes that a neon sign has disfigured the sturdy wall. He strains himself to read the lighted words: "Magic Theatre. Entrance not for Everybody." He wonders who goes inside. Then when he looks at it again, he notices that the words have changed to read, "For Madmen Only." Part of him yearns to enter the theater for madmen, but he walks on. Steppenwolf finally finds an ancient tavern, which has not been altered since his first visit to that town twenty-five years earlier. He goes inside and orders; while he waits, he reads the newspaper. He then eats and enjoys some wine. Warmed by the wine, he remembers a melody he has heard in a musical concert. For an hour, Haller is able to live without torment.


Departing the tavern for home, Steppenwolf hears some jazz music, which he judges to be substandard in comparison to Bach and Mozart. The musical notes, however, cause him to recall some lovely images from literature, art, and history. He contrasts the classical culture that he loves with the modern culture that appeals to the masses. As he walks slowly on the wet pavement, he is reluctant to return to his lonely room. He stops again at the dark stone wall, which seems to stare back at him. He is shocked to realize that there is no longer an opening in the wall, nor is there a painted arch. Then from the black mouth of the nearby alley, a man suddenly appears. Without really stopping, the man pulls out a book from his pocket. As Steppenwolf tries to take out some money to pay him, the man turns in at a doorway, enters, and shuts the door behind him. Haller continues toward the boarding house. When he unlocks the door to his room, he finds only his belongings waiting for him, just as family members, dogs, cats and maids would wait for more sensible people. He takes off his wet coat and eagerly starts reading the book he has been given.

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