Again I looked into the mirror. I had been mad. I must have been mad. There was no wolf in the mirror, lolling his tongue in his maw. It was I, Harry. . . . My face was gray, forsaken of all fancies, wearied by all vice, horribly pale. Still it was a human being, someone one could speak to.
“Harry,” I said, “what are you doing there?”
“Nothing,” said he in the mirror, “I am only waiting. I am waiting for death.”
“Where is death then?”
“Coming,” said the other.
This passage, part of the climactic episode at the novel’s close in Pablo’s Magic Theater, touches on many of the novel’s themes and motifs. It addresses the concept of mirrors with semi-independent reflections, Harry’s inclination toward death, Mozart and unearthly music, and the beyond-world of immortal genius. Finally, the passage alludes to the divide between wolf and man within Harry, and refers to the ideas of to vice and madness. On a formal level, this passage exemplifies the most memorable technique Hesse uses in Steppenwolf: an eerie, surreal, fantasy-world encounter that serves as a visible manifestation, a hallucinatory correlative, for Harry’s internal state. These flights of brilliant fantasy are what make Hesse’s didactic concerns and obsessions palatable, and this passage demonstrates Hesse at his most characteristically unique.
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