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1. The critic Eugene Stelzig
calls Harry Haller the “Hessean psychonaut par excellence.” The
image of the Steppenwolf as a voyager of the inner world is an apt
one. How do the spaces through which Haller physically travels in
the novel match the psychic stages through which he passes? (Consider,
for example, the bourgeois space of the landlady’s lodging house in
contrast to the subterranean dens of dancers and musicians.)
2. How are we to understand the
character of Hermine? Is she a mother, a friend, a sister, a lover,
or every one of those things? What is her significance in relation
to Harry? Is she an other, or a part of the same?
3. At the Fancy Dress Ball, Harry
considers that the event is “all a fairy tale,” “fanciful and symbolic,”
and endowed with “a new dimension, a deeper meaning.” In what ways
does Steppenwolf conform to the structure and logic
of a traditional fairy tale, and in what ways does it not?
4. From what we know of Hesse’s
background and history, much of Steppenwolf clearly
stems from real events in his life. What are the implications of
this for the novel? Does it alter our sense of Steppenwolf’s
genre? How does the confessional nature of the work influence our
reception of it?
5. By the end of the novel, Harry
has learned to approach the modern world with humor, though not
with acceptance and contentment. Do you think his earlier concerns
and criticisms have been borne out in the intervening years? What
aspects of the second half of the twentieth century do you think
Harry—or Hesse—would have felt most conformed to his predictions?
Ace your assignments with our guide to Steppenwolf!