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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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Section 3: Harry's Meeting With Hermine

Summary

("Thus it was I found myself.... 'A promise is a promise'")

On the way home from the Professor's house, Harry stops at a tavern and drinks brandy, trying to lighten his despair. From the tavern, he goes to The Black Eagle, where there is lively music and the smell of smoke and wine. When he enters, he notices that it is a simple crowd inside, with some of the people being poorly dressed. He spies a pale, pretty girl sitting at the bar; he goes up to her and learns that her name is Hermine. They drink Burgundy wine and eat sandwiches together. Although she seems sympathetic towards Haller, he also detects a touch of mockery in her voice when she talks to him.

She insists that he should learn to dance and derides him for not having learned to do so previously. He explains that his parents allowed him to learn Greek, Latin, and other classical subjects but never allowed him to dance. She then contemptuously asks him whether he had their permission to come to the Black Eagle. She treats him almost like a child and tells him that Harry is a childish name.


Hermine leads Haller up to a room, where he finds himself opening up to her. He tells her that he and his wife are divorced. He also tells her that he has a sweetheart, whom he does not see often; he explains that they often quarrel. He then tells her about the evening at the Professor's house and says he is frightened to go home. They talk about life, and she tells him that a person either hangs himself or lives on. She insists that if he hangs himself, he must have a good reason for doing so; but if he chooses to live, he needs to bother about living. Haller replies that to hang oneself is difficult but to live is even harder.

Hermine goes off to dance, telling Haller to sleep for awhile. As he sleeps, he dreams of Mozart, Goethe, and Molly, who was Goethe's mistress before she became his wife. When he wakes up, Hermine has returned, but she cannot spend more time with him, for she has an appointment. She does agree, however, to see him again. They decide to have dinner at the Old Franciscan.

Thinking it is too late to go home and not wanting to do so, Haller stays in a room at the Black Eagle. He thinks about Hermine and feels that he has found a wonderful friend. Suddenly life is worth living again. He sleeps without problem, but the next day he awakes with horrible memories of the previous day. Meeting Hermine, however, has given him relief from his despair.

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