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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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Section 2: Haller's Despair

Summary

(When I had read to the end.... Flaming yearning for life)

Haller finds his situation unbearable. His wife suffers from a disordered mind, which ruins his family life. He shifts from one house to another and feels no closeness to his neighbors. He feels that he has lost everyone's respect, leaving him without esteem. He feels an utter stranger to the bourgeois society in which he lives. He develops a disgust for the pomposity of the sciences, arts, religion, and state. He sinks more and more into being Steppenwolf and becomes indifferent to life. He goes off to sleep at dawn and wakes up at midday, always with various aches. To relive the pain, he consumes opium and wine quite freely. He also thinks about putting an end to his life, knowing he cannot do it.

One day Haller goes through the streets, searching for the man with the signboard who gave the book to him. He sees a funeral procession at St. Martin's Church. As he watches, he realizes that the mourners are not really sorry for the person who has died. They are just pretending to be sad. In fact, they overact and make a mockery of the funeral. When the ceremony is over, they scrape the moist clay from their shoes, and the expressions on their faces return to normal. In the midst of his observations, Haller thinks about Erica, his former love. They rarely meet anymore, for when they see each other, they usually end up quarrelling.

Haller suddenly sees a familiar looking man. He thinks that it is the man who had carried the signboard and thrust the book in his hand. When he tries to stop the man, he growls at Haller in surprise and walks away. It is apparent that he does not recognize Haller.


He then meets a former acquaintance, a Professor, who invites him to spend the evening with him. They go to the Professor's house and are greeted by his wife. During the evening, the Professor criticizes the person who has written an article in the newspaper, not aware that the author was Haller. The criticism makes Haller feel dejected and full of anguish. During dinner, he is ill at ease and says little.

After dinner, the Professor and Haller go back to the drawing room for coffee and cognac. Haller criticizes a sentimental portrait of Goethe on the wall. Realizing that he has offended his host, he is apologetic and gets up to leave. The Professor, however, wishes him to stay. Haller turns the conversation to the Professor's theories about Mithras and Krishna; he says that the theories had made a deep impression on him in the past. He also confesses that he had written the newspaper article the Professor had criticized.

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