The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Steppenwolf, the story of a man’s psychic journey, moves progressively inward and then, by extension, outward to apply to all of thinking, disillusioned, post-World War I humankind. The locus of the story is in the third section, in which protagonist Harry Haller meets Hermine (a café house prostitute) and Pablo (one of her lovers) and experiences the metamorphosing effects of the latter’s “Magic Theatre.”

The storyline of Steppenwolf appears to be relatively straightforward. An unidentified narrator begins the tale by stating in a “preface” that he is in possession of Haller’s papers, which were left behind when Haller departed a room he had rented from the narrator’s aunt. In the preface, the “bourgeois” voice of the nephew is contrasted with his depiction of the mysterious, intellectual, and inordinately morose Steppenwolf, a term Haller applies to himself. This initial narrator justifies his disclosure of Haller’s personal papers with the explanation that they are not merely the document of one man’s experiences but are “a document of the times” because “Haller’s sickness of the soul” is indeed “the sickness of the times themselves, the neurosis of that generation to which Haller belongs.”

The second narrator, Haller himself (via his papers), takes the reader through a series of increasingly bizarre and unexplainable events—events that tend to blur the line between reality and...

(The entire section is 521 words.)