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The structure of Steppenwolf is complex. The preface to the book serves as an introduction to the main character, to his conflict, and to the Themes of the novel. The main action of the book is developed in the section entitled "Harry Haller's Records," which narrates the conflict between Haller and the Steppenwolf inside him. Finally in "The Treatise of Steppenwolf", the magic Theater brings the book to its fantastic conclusion.
The "Preface" describing Haller is told from the third person point of view of the landlady's nephew. He contrasts the lonely and disordered existence of Haller with his own bourgeois lifestyle, filled with conventional values. He speaks of Haller's turmoil and despair, mentioning that he is sickly and suicidal. He also mentions that Haller has a mysterious friendship with a beautiful young woman (obviously referring to Hermine). He tells how Haller suddenly departs, leaving only a manuscript behind. The sudden departure of Steppenwolf leads to the main part of the novel.
In Part III, Haller's despair leads him to a state of depression in which he tries to commit suicide. When he fails, he realizes his life must change, marking the climax, or turning point of the novel. Soon afterwards, he meets Hermine, who helps him to shed the inhibitions caused by his strict, conservative upbringing. She also helps him to accept the duality of his nature. Most importantly, she introduces him to Maria and Pablo, who will continue to help Haller come to terms with the many personalities inside him. Maria teaches him about sexual pleasures, and Pablo shows him that there is beauty in modern day living, as revealed in his sensuous jazz music.
The outcome of the conflict is presented in the Magic Theater, where Pablo enables Harry to see and tame the Steppenwolf inside himself. When the wolfish half of Haller disappears, it is replaced by a variety of beings, both young and old, and Haller realizes that he holds the experiences of the world inside himself. Confident of his new existence, he stabs Hermine when he finds her in the arms of Pablo. He defends the murder by saying he has fulfilled Hermine's final wish. He is willing to accept death as punishment for his deed, but instead of being executed, he is condemned to live, laugh, and enjoy life. The novel closes with Haller's resolve that one day he will learn to laugh.
The scene in the Magic Theater entitled "Guidance in the Building-Up of the Personality" is a central unifying device in the novel; it serves as a bridge between the old Haller and the changed Haller. When he enters the room, he has just come to accept that his personality has many aspects, but he has no idea how to tame them all. Since he has had trouble wrestling with the wolf inside him, he must now fear a larger fight with many different personalities. Then in this room, Haller sees how the personalities can be re-arranged, like pieces in chess, to play new and more exciting game. He accepts that his "thousand souls" can be trained to live in harmony.