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Hesse published Steppenwolf in 1927,
after a failed marriage and two subsequent years of debauchery.
Harry Haller’s age, profession, intellectual interests, and unpopular
pacifist journalism match Hesse’s own. Hesse suggests that Harry
is actually a reflection of himself. Just as the concept of “the
Steppenwolf” is useful to Harry for self-analytical purposes, Harry
is useful to Hesse as an illuminating fictional construction.
Harry is more like a theoretical framework than a believable, realistic
character. He appears out of nowhere, inhabits a nameless space,
and disappears again into nowhere when his usefulness evaporates.
Harry is also an engaging character. The more mundane aspects of
his existence—his admiration of his favorite wine, his embarrassment
about his aging, his physical sufferings—are refreshingly lifelike
and endearing. These touches soften Harry’s seemingly boundless
despair and self-absorption.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Steppenwolf!