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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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Notes

This section captures Haller's misery as he tries to deal with the conflicting personalities within himself. He feels totally torn between his pure side and his wolf side and completely alienated from the bourgeois society that surrounds him. It is appropriate that he stops and watches a funeral, for he often thinks of death himself. He is, however, shocked to realize that the mourners seem to be totally hypocritical. Although they carry on to the extreme during the ceremony, they return to normal immediately after its conclusion; even the clergy seems to have no genuine concern for the deceased. Haller, who feels he is given no esteem in life, now understands that there is not even any esteem given to a person in death. He thinks that "civilization has become a cemetery where Jesus Christ and Socrates, Mozart and Haydn, Dante and Goethe are faded names on rusty tin plates."

Haller's encounter with the young Professor is a significant part of this section. At first, he is pleased that the Professor has cared enough about him to take him home to dinner at his house; he thinks that he almost belongs. During dinner, however, the wolf in him responds to the phony show of politeness. He also grows upset when the Professor criticizes a newspaper article that he has written. In turn, he criticizes a sentimental picture of Goethe that the Professor has on his wall, upsetting his host. The entire evening is really uncomfortable for Haller. He simply does not fit in.


At home, Haller recalls the hypocrisy of the funeral procession and his host's politeness at dinner. He realizes that a part of him was ready to play act at being warm and friendly, but the Steppenwolf in him could not make it happen. He cannot be like the Professor who accepts things as they are, as reflected in the portrait of Goethe and his nationalistic comments on the newspaper article. The evening ended in defeat, with Haller feeling more rejected and depressed than ever. On the way home, he wanders through town, dreading both life and death. As he reflects on the evening, Haller acknowledges that he is simply different from other sociable men and women.

The theme of despair, with corresponding thoughts of suicide, seems to be based on Hesse's own life. When his true love, Eugenie Kolb, did not return his emotions, he was seized with disappointment. Consequently, he thought about suicide. The letters written by Hesse during this time clearly show that he was badly in need of someone who would try to understand him. In a like manner, Steppenwolf feels that no one understands or appreciates him. As his fiftieth birthday draws closer, he worries about having nothing to show for his life.

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