Steppenwolf: “The Genius of Suffering” by Hassan M. Malik
“Like Goethe, a Hesse novel is an integral part of a broader paradigm, which reflects the author’s maturing thought, morals, and ideas at that particular point in his life. Hesse wrote Steppenwolf when he was about fifty years old. His health was on a decline, and he had divorced out of a failed second marriage in a relatively short period of time (Ziolkowski, 108). He was also visiting Dr. Carl Gustav Jung for psychoanalysis (Ziolkowski, 109). Hesse’s opposition to the upcoming Second World War, his failed marriage, his search for self, his deteriorating social life, and a strong influence of Jungian ideas it appears, have contributed to the development of this novel. Hesse elaborates how the road to realization of the self can fill up with extreme pain, suffering, misery, affliction, and twinge, if the multiple aspects of self are ignored and the self is reduced to only two extremes of persona – Haller finds his nirvana through the realization that he must broaden the horizon of his thoughts to encompass the thousands of possibilities offered to him by Bourgeois, which he has always despised.”
“Harry consists of a hundred or a thousand selves, not two”; human nature is too complex to be viewed between only two extremes […] Harry’s life oscillates, as everyone’s does, not merely between two poles, such as the body and the spirit, the saint and the sinner, but between thousand and thousands”. (Hesse, 66)
Harry looks into the magic mirror of Pablo and sees multiple components of his personality. He sees youth, adult, and an old man; and every possibility in between. He recognizes the thousands of possible Harries in the mirror are the diverse dimensions of himself. He is now ready to enter the Magic Theatre of Pablo.
The price to enter the Magic Theatre is one’s sense of reasoning. Magic Theatre is not for everyone – it is for madmen only. One can relate these “Madmen” to be people who can perceive reality on a higher level like immortals; this fact is established in the novel when tract says, “one of our magic theatres”, as the tract is written by a higher being itself (Hesse, 74). Madmen are people like Prince Myshkin of Dostoevsky in The Idiot, “who have perceived total reality of good and evil (Ziolkowski, 215)”. On The Idiot, Ziolkowski’s judgment seems rational when he declares Myshkin to be like Hesse’s madmen. Just to name an occasion, when Myshkin introduces himself in the house of Gavril Ardalionovich, he accepts that he has “grown strange to [their] ways” (Dostoevsky, 20). In the light of Steppenwolf these are people who perceive reality in the absence of time and poles. These people are Immortals who live in a place where life is a “moment” without time and the “moment” is just “big enough” to be happy (Hesse, 110).