(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Hermann Hesse won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946 for the body of his work, much of which can be considered interlocking pieces of the same thematic puzzle. In Steppenwolf, Hesse explores the central problem of making peace with a disturbing, illogical, and—perhaps worst—mediocre world. The essential question is how one accepts the world on its own terms without doing violence to one’s soul. In a critical passage near the end of the novel, Mozart confronts the fatalistic Haller and condemns the latter to life. Furthermore, he instructs Haller to develop the ability to see, hear, and feel through and past the “bim-bim” (nonsense, lack of perfection) of life and see the pure essence and goodness behind the façade.

Through the surrealistic, grotesque, and fantastic events of the Magic Theatre, Haller comes to recognize a way he can begin to face life rather than reject it. Ironically, he does so by enacting scenes of violence behind the theater’s many doors. The theater consists of a huge hallway lined with multiple doors, each labeled with a different adventure. Some of Haller’s adventures include the “Great Automobile Hunt,” in which he partakes in arbitrary, random shooting of drivers; “Guidance in the Building of the Personality,” in which he confronts parts of himself broken into various chess pieces on a playing board; and the “Marvelous Taming of the Steppenwolf,” in which alternate sides—the brutal and...

(The entire section is 452 words.)