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Harry Haller, who is a reflection of Hesse himself, is the main character and protagonist of the novel. In the beginning, he is portrayed as a shy, lonely man who is nearing fifty years of age. He lives by himself in a boarding house, where he guards his privacy and keeps an odd schedule, often sleeping until noon and skipping meals. In spite of his strange ways, he is a likable man. In appearance, Haller is close-shaven and has short hair with streaks of gray. His smile is peculiar, almost unpleasant. Since he suffers from ill health, he appears somewhat drawn and frail. He does, however, have the gait of a large man.
Haller is a well traveled man, as evidenced by the many foreign labels on his trunk. He does not have to work to support himself, for he earns significant interest from his industrial investments. Being gifted, he spends his time in intellectual pursuits, especially reading, and in artistic endeavors, especially writing. Being the sensitive contemplative sort, he despises the comforts and contentment sought after by the middle class bourgeois society. Ironically, he still yearns for the order and cleanliness practiced by its members.
Haller is extremely emotional and has an unusually delicate sensibility. He possesses a deep appreciation for classical music, especially that of Mozart, and classical literature, especially that of Goethe. Usually an unsociable loner, he sometimes wishes he had a friend with whom he could discuss music and literature. Unfortunately, he finds that most people are satisfied with the mediocrity of modern entertainment and, unlike him, have no appreciation of the classics.
The split in personality causes Haller great despair, for the two selves do not live in harmony. Through Pablo, Hermine, and Maria, as well as through his experiences in the Magic Theater, Haller learns to shed the inhibitions brought on by his childhood. He also learns that more than two personalities dwell within him. He accepts that he is composed of many beings, both young and old. He is taught that the different selves can be arranged, like chess pieces, to live in harmony. By the end of the book, Haller has shed some of his darkness and despair, even trying to laugh like Mozart and the Immortals.
Many parallels can be made between Herman Hesse and Harry Haller, who both share the same initials. It is obvious that the author has written much of himself into his main character and uses Haller as a mouthpiece for his own ideas. Both men came from strict, conservative backgrounds, where religion was important. Both were pacifists and wrote newspaper articles attacking public enthusiasm for war. Both Haller and Hesse frowned upon technology and feared that it would demean life. Both men were contemplative, always examining their own thoughts and feelings. Since they enjoyed spending time alone, they appeared to be unsociable. In truth, they both merely disapproved of typical middle class entertainment and behavior. As a result, neither the author nor his creation learned to dance until they were almost fifty years old.