Steppenwolf is the depiction of a man, in a time, where the pain and anguish of living his life provides the courage necessary to seek change. Harry Haller, a.k.a., Steppenwolf (the wolf of the Steppes) spends his time "with his thoughts and his books, and pursues no practical calling." He is intelligent, educated, cultured, and lonely. Harry is a regular guy, an average man, a man we know, a man we are.
Harry is in pain - spiritual pain, emotional pain, social pain, political pain; deep and suffocating pain. Drinking alcohol doesn't cure Harry's pain, and his health is poor too. Kind landlords provide no relief, and the kindness of old colleagues bestowing social niceties only serve to prove to Harry how wretched he is, because Harry is a "genius of suffering, with a frightful capacity for pain...rooted in self-contempt." Harry is also authentically himself and without pretenses, though he is rejecting of himself. He escapes the pretenses of the world, yet he lives according to the rules of the world. He is accepting and honest with everyone he meets, yet is filled with deep contempt, for himself, and the "bourgeois" world. Conformity to the norm of the day is not the way of the wolf, and Harry Haller is a wolf; a wolf, "living a journey through hell...a soul dwelling in darkness." What Harry wants and needs is relief. Yet he is afraid. Afraid of others, the past, the present, the future, and so with despair for the life he lives, Harry wants to die. Harry also wants to be connected, to be present, and to live. He yearns for it; he even, "regrets the present day and the countless lost hours and days in mere passivity." Yet in Harry's darkest moments, he still has an ability to transcend the darkness and connect to nature as he "contemplates the araucaria." There is also relief for Harry in music, because in music, Harry "drops all defenses and was afraid of nothing in the world." Harry is a regular guy, an average man, a man we know, a man we are. Harry is shadow. Harry is ego.
Hitting bottom, seeing relief only in death, Harry struggles with darkness (shadow), and encounters the Magic Theater. Prior to Harry's Magic Theater journey he is given a "Treatise of the Steppenwolf" (a diagnosis). The Magic Theater is "not for everybody." But, Harry is not everybody. Harry is courageous. He enters The Magic Theater (psycho-therapy) and encounters everyone and everything, dark and light and neutral; all of it. Upon entering The Magic Theater, Harry meets a woman who is pure light (ego) to his darkness (shadow). She is friendly, smiling, comforting, soothing, and nurturing. She is alive! And she is exactly the relief Harry needs. She is "his opposite, and all that Harry lacked." Because she is the part of Harry that he long ago cast off, thrown away and rejected. She is Harry's anima. She is Hermine. She is Harry.
In The Magic Theatre, Hermine (like a nurturing mother) introduces Harry to himself (her), and she shows Harry that he's been brooding like a child in a lifetime tantrum. And, like the child that he is, Harry submits to his Hermine (mother/anima/self) and learns the ways to laughter, humor, acceptance and love. Harry's journey is not without struggle, as he deals with his old self (shadow), learns from his new self (ego), and learns to live. Harry learns that darkness (shadow) is only part of life, and that acceptance, love and laughter are other parts of the game and dance of life, parts he had discarded long, long ago.
On Harry's journey in The Magic Theater, he meets many teachers and guides, including his beloved Goethe, Mozart, the neutral, non-judgmental and compassionate Herr Pablo, and the chess player: psycho-therapists all. With their encouragement and instruction, Harry engages with others, struggles with self and others, dances with others, and faces himself in others - and Harry integrates it all. Every experience in The Magic Theater is an awakening of love, acceptance, relief and life for Harry -past, present and future, and through the journey, Harry learns self-control and self-acceptance.
Before Harry paid the price of admission into The Magic Theater (his mind), Harry was a regular guy, an average man, a man we know, a man we are. The difference between Harry and the average though, is that Harry had the courage to pay the price to "live and not die"