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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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IMAGERY and SYMBOLISM

Steppenwolf is filled with images and symbols. The most important is the animal imagery and symbolism. Because he has a negative side (as does all mankind), Haller sees himself as a wolf. This negative side is constantly at war with his more human, artistic side. Only in rare moments of happiness are the wolf and man at peace. The Treatise applies the wolf image beyond Haller to all mankind, stating that everyone at times suffers from a general "malaise," a feeling of emptiness about life. It makes a person want to bear his teeth and howl in despair.


Mirror symbolism and imagery is also very significant in the novel. Haller is a character who is constantly observing himself, both physically in a mirror and spiritually through analysis. Hermine, Maria and Pablo also act as mirrors to Haller. They reflect various aspects of Haller's own personality and teach him about himself. In the Magic Theater, Haller encounters a multitude of mirrors, almost like a kaleidoscope. When he looks in the first mirror there, he sees only chaos in the image of the wolf. Gradually the wolf image is replaced by a host of other images, all representing Haller in varying forms, both old and young. Other mirror images include a glimpse of heaven as a soap bubble, the reflection of the Magic Theater sign on the wet pavement, and cosmic laughter of crystal and ice, at the end of the Masked Ball.

Flowers are also symbolic in the novel. Hermine appropriately wears a withered camellia. Like the beautiful flower, she too will die. Maria is likened to a rose, another sweet smelling flower that quickly fades. When Haller is with these women, he likens it to being in a pleasure garden, alluding to the Garden of Eden, where he picks the forbidden fruit. The understanding of his sexual and sensual selves that he gains from Maria and Hermine is part of his growing into self-acceptance.

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