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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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Notes

The Treatise is another mirror in which Haller's dilemma is reflected. It is written "from above," from the point of view of the immortals who have already reached the goal to which Haller aspires.

By writing the Treatise, however, Haller is becoming one of the immortals. In the process, he is placing himself above the normal mortals of the world who fail to seek beauty, creativity or intellectualism.

In this first section, there are several literary allusions. The opening words, "there was once a man," are like a fairy tale; and, in deed, Steppenwolf's tale will be fantastic and didactic, much like a fairy tale. Hesse then goes into a Biblical allusion, stating that "one sinner is dearer to God than ninety-nine righteous persons." He is referring to the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd (God) leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go and find the lost one. Hesse interprets the parable to mean that God rejoices over the safe return of one lost sheep (the sinner) more than he rejoices over the ninety-nine (the righteous) who have not strayed. Steppenwolf sees himself as the lost sheep who needs to be found.

Many artists and intellectuals share Steppenwolf's predicament of a split being. They live a life characterized by chaos, misery, and pain; but out of their suffering comes great beauty. The misery and pain in Haller is caused by his wolfish side, the Steppenwolf in him; the intellectual, beautiful, and spiritual come from his human side. Usually the two personalities rage against each other. Occasionally, however, the human and the animal within him are in harmony; during these rare moments, Haller experiences bliss.

Because of his split personality, which most people judge as schizophrenia, Haller is normally uncomfortable in the company of others; he prefers independence and isolation, even though he does have a few acquaintances. Unfortunately, he finds that the isolation brings pain. As a result, he goes for nighttime prowls, seeking sensual pleasures; they, however, cause additional pain. Sometimes his misery is so intense that he considers suicide.


The second part of this section analyzes the relationship between conventional middle-class society and the intellectual or "outsider" who is trapped within it. Haller (and Hesse) believes that man is basically a wild, primitive animal. Bourgeois society, however, has imposed upon him a need for order, correctness, decency, conformity and comfort. As a result, the modern individual is in a chaotic condition, heading toward destruction; in a word, humans have become Steppenwolves, torn between two personalities. Within them there is a constant war. Intellect is forever fighting with passion. Sharp reason is clashing with wolfish sensuality. Bourgeois society shuns any extreme and seeks out a middle ground between the various contradictions in human life. Compromise is the natural response of the dullards who live in this conventional society.

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