Perception Of The Bourgeoisie in Steppenwolf Essay

Perception Of The Bourgeoisie in Steppenwolf Essay

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Perception Of The Bourgeoisie in Steppenwolf

     Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf presents a paradoxical picture of the bourgeoisie. The main character, Harry Haller, acknowledges his bourgeois upbringing and frequently has a bourgeois view about various aspects of society; however, at the same time, he condemns the bourgeois lifestyle and all that it represents because of his perceived alienation from it.


The bourgeoisie itself is represented in many different lights in Steppenwolf. The first representation is through the character of Haller's landlady's nephew. The nephew is the most typical bourgeois in the novel, and thus the least explored representation because he easily fits into the reader's own perceptions with no need for further elaboration. He is the petit bourgeois who goes to his business every day, takes the same short lunch break, returns to work, goes home, and repeats the same unadventurous pattern day after day without ever questioning his role in society or the reason for his existence.


The "Treatise on the Steppenwolf" presents another portrait of Hesse's perception of the bourgeoisie and of Haller's relationship to it. Haller is "secretly and persistently attracted to the little bourgeois world" (50) in the same way he is to jazz music which "much as [he] detested it, had always had a secret charm for [him]."(37) Because "he took up his abode always among the middle classes", he had grown accustomed to viewing society "in a thoroughly bourgeois manner." (51) The treatise describes being "bourgeois" as seeking balance between two extremes "at the cost of that intensity of life and feeling which an extreme life affords." (51) In this sense, Haller himself is bourgeois because he constant...

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...nderstands it and resolves to "be a better hand at the game" (218) it seems that he will one day join Pablo and Mozart who are waiting for him in this magical realm free of bourgeois conventions. To "teach [him] to laugh [was] the whole aim" (177) and it is the only true suicide of the Steppenwolf and the bourgeois self because "it's no good with a razor." (178) Only laughter can free the thousand facets of his soul.


Works Cited

Boulby, Mark. Herman Hesse: His Mind and Art. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1967

Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf. Trans. Basil Creighton. Ed. Joseph Mileck and Horst Frenz. New York: Henry Holt and Company Ltd., 1990

Wegener, Franz. Herman Hesse's theory of National Socialism in "Der Steppenwolf". Trans. Laura Campbell, Werner Habel and Eva-Maria Stuckel. (visited: 99/01/30)

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