Steppenwolf

by: Hermann Hesse

Hermine

Characters Hermine

The lovely and generous Hermine takes Harry under her wing and teaches him to live, putting him in touch with his long-ignored sensuous side. As a hedonistic young courtesan, Hermine is Harry’s opposite in many ways, yet also his close double. She enters his life by a magical accident, as Harry goes to the Black Eagle tavern, where the signboard man of the Magic Theater directs him to go. As a result, from the start Hermine is clearly something more than a realistic character. Hesse reveals Hermine’s magical, surreal aspects when Harry finds that she resembles his boyhood friend Herman and impossibly guesses that her name is a feminine version of his friend’s.

The closing passages of the novel reveal that Hermine is actually a part of Harry. When Harry stabs her, her slain body neatly shrinks to the size of a figurine. Although it is never clear whether Harry murders Hermine or merely a hallucination of her, the novel’s closing words suggest that Hermine has always been only a reflection of Harry. Once Harry has integrated back into his personality the life of the body that he has hitherto repressed, Hermine is no longer needed and is therefore dispelled. She serves as Harry’s magic mirror, calling out of him and making visible those parts to which he had previously been blind. When Harry learns to see himself clearly, he effectively destroys Hermine.