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Hermann Hesse

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