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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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Section 4: Haller's New Way of Life

Summary

("And before I knew, I was asleep once more....puts fire into it")

Haller returns home and sees his landlady, the aunt of the Editor. She invites him to have tea with her. Haller is surprised at the invitation, for the two of them seldom visit since she respects his desire for privacy. On this day, however, Haller is eager to accept her offer and finds that her kind nature delights him. They talk about the radio, a recent invention, and marvel at the wonders of technology. They also talk about Eastern philosophy and the unreality of time. Haller is so relaxed for a change that he actually jokes about science, making the landlady smile. An hour passes quickly as they enjoy each other's company.

Haller eagerly waits for the arrival of Tuesday, the day he is to have dinner with Hermine. When it finally arrives, he anxiously goes to the Black Eagle, carrying two orchids for her, which she seems to appreciate. She asks him whether he has learned to dance the fox-trot as she has requested. Haller admits he has no one to teach him.


As he talks to Hermine, Haller is reminded of his childhood friend, Herman; he thinks she bears a close resemblance to him. He tells Hermine that she has all the qualities that he himself lacks. She realizes her power over him and tells him that he must obey her commands. She then shivers as though in a trance. As she stares at him intensely, her eyes look sad. Although she is still beautiful and full of sensuality, there is also something sinister about her. She says that she wants to love him, but she knows he cannot love her. Finally she reveals her final command; she tells Haller that he must kill her. She then casually starts eating dinner, seeming to relish every bite. Haller is amazed that such a happy person with such a hearty appetite has visions of death, much like himself. He decides to tell her all about the Steppenwolf treatise. She tells him that he is no wolf, but that she will read the treatise.

Hermine wants to buy a gramophone (a record player) so that the two of them can dance together. After purchasing one, they take it to Haller's room, where Hermine tries to teach him to dance. He has great difficulty and keeps banging into tables and chairs. She laughs heartily and says that dancing is like thinking; it becomes automatic. Haller tries harder and actually improves; therefore, Hermine suggests that they go out some place to dance.

Hermine leads Haller to a jazz club, where she introduces him to Pablo, the dark, good-looking saxophone player. Haller secretly feels ashamed at taking part in this tawdry world, but joins in without question. He is soon surprised to find out that he actually dances easily with Hermine and with another girl named Maria. During a break, Pablo joins them. Haller is bothered when he finds him unresponsive to his intellectual discussions about jazz music.

Haller enjoys Hermine's company and feels close to her, but he realizes that he is not in love with her. She also recognizes that there is bond of understanding between them. She explains it as their common lack of fondness for life and people. Teasing Harry, she urges him to make love to Maria, the girl with whom he had danced.

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