According to the Treatise, in order to rescue himself, the Steppenwolf must look into his own soul and know himself. The Treatise then muses cryptically on some future possibilities for the Steppenwolf: that he may come to experience the importance of humor, may “get hold of one of our little mirrors,” or may find his way to a “magic theater.” After this comprehensive, authoritative description of the Steppenwolf framework, however, the Treatise criticizes it. It calls the notion of a “Steppenwolf” too simplistic, for Harry consists of innumerable souls, not merely two.
With this criticism the Treatise ends. It reminds Harry of a poem he wrote in which he described himself as a wolf. He reflects that he has two representations of himself, one in verse, one in objective prose. Both versions, Harry believes, are correct, and both point to suicide if he cannot find a way to break through and achieve profound change by deep self-understanding.
Hesse tells Harry Haller’s story from many perspectives in order to heighten its realism. We first learn about Harry through his landlady’s nephew, whose observations about Haller seem to give us the objective truth. We then begin to learn about Harry from his own perspective, which gives us access to his inner life. Finally, we learn about Harry through the authoritative dicta of the mysterious, seemingly definitive Treatise. Because the Treatise employs such phrases as “I say,” “even the best of us,” and “this Steppenwolf of ours,” it has a personal feel, suggesting that the Treatise’s unknown author has a personal connection to Harry.
Much like a court case, these three sources of information about Harry Haller corroborate each other, lending credence to Harry and his claims. Such corroboration is important since, with the appearance of the Treatise, Steppenwolf introduces the first of its fantastic, supernatural events. Of course, even with the corroboration among different sources, we are not likely to believe everything Harry says about the disappearing entrance to the Magic Theater and the thoroughly biographical booklet. Yet the narrator’s preface prepares us for these fantastic elements by stating that, even if not all of its contents are factually true, Harry’s manuscript is nonetheless important as a record of a spiritual journey. In this way, the novel’s multiple sources neatly comment upon and enrich each other.
Though these different sources support each other, they also come into conflict in certain ways. For example, while the Treatise has a perfect understanding of Harry’s Steppenwolf dichotomy, it insists that the dichotomy is incorrect—Harry, like all people, is made up of innumerable selves rather than simply two polar opposites. Thus, after Harry has earnestly portrayed himself as a Steppenwolf torn between the divine and the bestial, the Treatise deconstructs Harry’s idea, critiquing it for being too simplistic. This lesson is furthered by the fact that the text itself reflects the principle of multiple selves. The very structure of the novel imitates this concept of the divided self by breaking itself up into the perspectives of several narrators. The split between Harry’s personal record and the objective Treatise mirrors the split that the Steppenwolf experiences in his own life.
The power of this section comes partly from the symbolic opposition set up in the preface, when Harry reads the passage about the divide between life on solid ground (symbolizing the life of the bourgeois) and the stormy, unsteady life of water (symbolizing Harry’s own life). The water symbolism suggests that Harry is moving away from the safety and security of the bourgeois. Harry sees the sign announcing the Magic Theater reflected on the wet streets. In addition, he is not able to read the sign until he crosses the street, which he has been reluctant to do because it is wet and muddy. Afterward, Harry describes himself as having stepped squarely into the mud, and he points out that his feet are thoroughly wet and cold.
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