Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
THE MAGIC THEATER
Pablo appears, now wearing a gorgeous silk smoking jacket, and invites them into a small room. He offers them an aromatic liquor and long, thin cigarettes. He holds a mirror up to Harry, who sees in it his own face and that of a beautiful, frightened wolf.
Readers who have labeled this excursion into the Magic Theater a drug trip have found their evidence here, in Pablo's drinks and cigarettes. Hesse's biographers say with certainty that although Hesse was familiar with drugs as painkillers for his gout and arthritis, he did not participate in the drug culture.
Pablo ushers them into his theater and guides them along a curved passage. It has doors along it like those opening into theater boxes-Pablo calls them his peep shows. He instructs Harry to check his personality in the cloakroom, and again shows him his image with that of the wolf in the little mirror. This time Harry is to destroy it by laughing, by ceasing to take himself seriously. Pablo laughs the eerie laugh Harry heard earlier. Harry himself laughs, and the mirror turns opaque. Pablo throws it away and compliments Harry. He is rid of the Steppenwolf and will soon be free of the farce of reality.
Harry then looks into a gigantic mirror, which shatters into images of himself at all ages. A young Harry leaps from the mirror into Pablo's arms and they go off together. Another, a teenage Harry, also springs out of the mirror and disappears through a door with a sign that reads, ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS-ONE QUARTER IN THE SLOT.
Harry opens a door marked JOLLY HUNTING-GREAT HUNT IN AUTOMOBILES. He is plunged into a war between men and machines, with human bodies and mangled cars strewn in the street. An old schoolfriend named Gustav joins him. Gustav is armed. They drive into the country and climb a tree to a lookout above the road. From there they take turns shooting the drivers of cars passing on the road below. They throw the cars and bodies over the cliff and climb back to shoot the next ones.
The automobile was a symbol of death to Hesse, but here its significance is broadened to embrace all machines, the technology that in Hesse's view is a threat to human values. Do you see modern technology as a threat? Notice that Gustav, a pleasant enough fellow, enjoys killing for its own sake. This is another possible "shadow" in Harry's personality, a potential killer who is suppressed and emerges from the unconscious only in this fantasy.
To some readers the automobile hunt labels Hesse as a member of the older generation, hostile to change. Others, young as well as older, remember the frustration of traffic jams and the sensation of being out of control on high-speed freeways, where they sometimes felt like shooting the incompetent and inconsiderate drivers around them. Do you sympathize with this hunt? Can you make a case against the automobile? In your judgment, has modern technology brought more happiness or less to the world?
When the automobile hunt dissolves, Harry finds himself back in the theater corridor. He passes a series of signs promising transformation into a plant or animal, instruction in the Indian arts of love, laughing suicide, wisdom of the East, downfall of the West, a cabinet of humor. He chooses GUIDANCE IN THE BUILDING UP OF THE PERSONALITY. SUCCESS GUARANTEED.
Inside, Harry finds a man sitting on the floor before a chessboard, who looks like Pablo but says he is not anybody. He asks for the pieces of Harry's personality. These are again supplied by a mirror that breaks up Harry's image into pieces about the size of chessmen. The chess player, droning on about multiple selves, demonstrates how the pieces of Harry's personality can be rearranged into various personalities living a series of different lives. Again Hesse introduces the idea of multiple selves, a psychoanalytic approach that first breaks up (analyzes) and then reshapes the different parts of the personality in order to achieve harmony through healthy expression of all the parts.
Fascinated, Harry takes his pieces and withdraws to play his own game, but is interrupted by a sign reading, MARVELOUS TAMING OF THE STEPPENWOLF. He walks through the door to see a stage like that at a village fair, on which an animal trainer is taming the wolf. Harry is agonized to see the beautiful beast humiliated, but the roles change and under the wolf's commands the man behaves like a wolf, tearing the flesh of his prey. Harry, horrified, flees.
He comes again to the door through which his adolescent self had disappeared: ALL GIRLS ARE YOURS. Here Harry is wafted into his youth and first love, and he relives all the loves of his life that followed, ending with the mirrored image of Hermine. He runs in search of her and comes to the last door, HOW ONE KILLS FOR LOVE. He remembers that to kill Hermine was to be her last command. He looks for the pieces of his personality in order to rearrange them and avoid this outcome. Instead he finds a knife. In the mirror he sees the wolf, larger than life, and then himself. His mirror image tells Harry he is waiting for death.
To music from Mozart's opera, Don Giovanni, along with the eerie laughter of an Immortal, Pablo appears in the shape of Mozart. He shows Harry visions of Brahms and Wagner, each leading a crowd of thousands of musicians who played the thousands of extra notes in the music of these composers. It was not their fault, Mozart/Pablo tells Harry. Thick orchestration was a fault of their time. But they must pay the penalty for it all the same. Harry thinks of all the superfluous books, articles, and pamphlets he has written and must be penalized for in an endless purgatory. In anger he seizes Mozart's hair and is whirled away into the icy gaiety of the Immortals until he loses consciousness.
NOTE: HESSE AND MUSIC
This vision is Hesse's musical joke. Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner, German composer contemporaries in the late nineteenth century, were considered hostile competitors, and their followers carried on a bitter feud. Both, however, were criticized for the "thickness" of their orchestration-that is, for writing too many notes for too many instruments-compared with the restraint and clarity of their predecessors of the classical period such as Mozart. Brahms used a symphony orchestra much larger than Mozart's, and Wagner added still more instruments to the full orchestra of the time. Other German composers Haller mentions-Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven, for instance-were pioneers of the post-Mozart Romantic era, which saw innovations of new musical forms and a freer expression of the emotions. Brahms and Wagner came still later, at the climax of the Romantic era; Wagner in particular expressed powerful passions in terms of large orchestral sound. Haller/Hesse grants these late composers some power and beauty but he clings to his worship of Mozart as the greatest of all composers, a true Immortal.