Steppenwolf

Hermann Hesse
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Steppenwolf, or Der Steppenwolf (The Steppenwolf)

author   Hermann Hesse

type of work   Novel

genre   Bildungsroman; psychoanalytical adventure

language   German

time and place written   Mid-1920s, Switzerland

date of first publication  1927

publisher   S. Fischer

narrator   The novel has multiple narrators: Harry Haller, the protagonist, who has left behind his records; the nephew of Harry’s landlady, who composes the preface; and the anonymous, all-knowing author of a booklet called “Treatise on the Steppenwolf.”

point of view   The point of view is first person for the vast majority of the novel, though limited third person in the preface by Harry’s landlady’s nephew, and an all-knowing, omniscient second and third person in the Treatise. All of these points of view take Harry as their focus, and each works in tandem with the others, corroborating and also extending the information given in the other sections.

tone   The novel’s tone varies from direly serious to ironically humorous, at times verging on surreal and eventually hallucinatory.

tense   Past

setting (time)   Between the two world wars

setting (place)   An unspecified, medium-sized town in a German-speaking country

protagonist   Harry Haller, also known as the Steppenwolf

major conflict   Harry feels divided between two conflicting halves—a man-half who prizes and desires the comforts offered by a respectable life with others, and a wild and cruel wolf-half who scorns such petty concerns. Alienated and despairing, on the verge of suicide at the novel’s opening, Harry seeks to resolve the disturbance within him and pick up the task of life again.

rising action   Harry receives the “Treatise on the Steppenwolf,” meets Hermine, has a liaison with Maria, and attends the Fancy Dress Ball.

climax   During the journey in Pablo’s Magic Theater, Harry faces different aspects of himself and kills Hermine, symbolizing his assimilation of his characteristics into his own self-identity.

falling action   Harry converses with Mozart.

themes   Multiple identities; the existence of a world beyond time; the complex nature of laughter

motifs   Music; dancing; representation

symbols   Mirrors; the radio; the araucaria plant

foreshadowing   The nephew’s preface; Hermine’s description of her future command