The Magic Theater


“Nothing,” said he in the mirror, “I am only waiting. I am waiting for death.”

“Where is death then?”

“Coming,” said the other.

See Important Quotations Explained

Outside the Magic Theater, Pablo holds a small looking glass up to Harry. Harry sees the trembling reflection of a creature into which a man and wolf flow irregularly, each trying to destroy the other. Harry recognizes that this is how he sees himself, and that with Pablo’s help all of his soul will be made visible to him. Pablo leads Harry and Hermine into a horseshoe-shaped theater. He explains that victory over time is achieved through the dissolution of the personality. Pablo instructs Harry to walk down the left corridor while Hermine walks down the right. He shows Harry the pocket mirror again and tells him that the Magic Theater is a “school of humor.” Harry laughs, fully and with a feeling of wonderful release. The mirror chars, as though burned, and turns opaque.

Congratulating Harry and laughing the same eerie laugh from the end of the dance, Pablo tells Harry that the Magic Theater is a world of “pictures, not realities.” To cast aside the “spectacles” of his old personality, Harry looks into a gigantic mirror in which he sees infinite Harrys of all ages. One is a young teen who leaps out and runs down the corridor. Harry runs after the teen and stops with him at a door that reads “ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS—ONE QUARTER IN THE SLOT.” The boy disappears into the slot. Harry discovers everyone else has also disappeared, and he is left to negotiate the Magic Theater alone.

Harry opens a door that reads “JOLLY HUNTING—GREAT HUNT IN AUTOMOBILES.” He finds himself in the middle of a war between men and machines. The scene is apocalyptic, filled with flames and death and reckless, gratuitous bloodshed. Gustav, Harry’s school friend, suddenly appears. Next, Harry opens a door that bears the words “GUIDANCE IN THE BUILDING UP OF THE PERSONALITY. SUCCESS GUARANTEED.” Inside, a man who looks like Pablo asks Harry to put the pieces of his personality on a chessboard, and shows him how to infinitely reconfigure them. When finished, Harry puts these wonderful pieces into his pocket.

The third door Harry chooses is marked “MARVELOUS TAMING OF THE STEPPENWOLF.” Inside, Harry watches a man humiliate a broken wolf by making it behave like a man. Harry is horrified to see the hungry wolf swallow chocolate while it is forced to put its paws around a rabbit and a lamb. Then man and wolf switch positions, and the man rips off his clothes and tears through the flesh of the rabbit and lamb as if he were a beast. In the fourth room Harry enters, “ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS,” he gets to enjoy all the women he has ever wanted in his life. Each one of these lovers readies him for his final encounter with Hermine.

Finally, Harry stands in front of a door marked “HOW ONE KILLS FOR LOVE.” He is reminded of his early conversation with Hermine, when she told him she would give him a final command to kill her. Filled with dread, Harry reaches in his pockets for the pieces of his life so that he may rework them into a different conclusion. However, all he manages to fish out of his pocket is a knife. Harry runs away, back to the gigantic mirror, where he sees a wolf that turns into Harry. The reflection tells Harry that it is waiting for death.

Strains of the opera Don Giovanni and a peal of unearthly laughter herald the appearance of the composer Mozart, the person Harry most admires. The two discuss music and see Brahms and Wagner marching drearily below past them, dragging hosts of followers. Mozart does a somersault and laughs at Harry for being so despondent. Harry tries to catch Mozart’s pigtail, but it turns into the tail of a comet, which Harry follows into the cold atmosphere of immortals. Harry then passes out.