To be a teenaged girl means many things in this modern society. There are numerous expectations set for the average sixteen year old female: she must be pretty, popular, thin, preferably intelligent, but not too intelligent, and she must subjugate her will to the group. This world has a tendency to shun females who are too independent, who seek too much power, and who attempt to break from the stereotypical female mold. I have personally experienced this spurning, especially from my peers. There exists a dichotomy somewhere in my own soul, a rift between that which I am expected to be and who I really am. Harry Haller, in Hermann Hesse's novel Steppenwolf, experienced a similar predicament. He was torn between the life of a socially acceptable, "decent" man, and the primal, lupine nature of the Steppenwolf. I find myself caught between wanting to be a socially acceptable, "popular" girl, and being the independent, intellectual, and strong person that I actually am. There are a number of parallels between Haller and I, each further proving that the dichotomy of the Steppenwolf and the division within myself, the teenaged girl, are of the same essence.
Often in my life I have felt trapped by the boundaries and expectations that those around me have set for how I ought to behave, think, and feel. Here in suburban America, these boundaries are often set by peers and family, as well as by the media and celebrity figures. The expectations that they have set often dictate ideas that, deep down, I greatly disagree with. One of the most prominent of the ideas is that my worth is reflected in my outward physical appearance. In this world which has declared war on th...
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...conditioned self and the true self. She both wishes to be accepted and to be set free from the group's expectations. She wants the perfect body and face and yet realizes the lack of importance therein. Harry Haller, in the end, could not completely understand the game of life, but understood that the willingness to play and the eagerness to sort through the inner self are what really matter. I have realized that, in the end, I must learn the same lesson. The road ahead will not be easy, just as Harry's journey was long and arduous. Fear and fleeing are no longer options, though. It is an archetypal, inherent knowledge within each human being that self-knowledge is key to a true existence, and both the Steppenwolf and the teenaged girl realize the importance of this expedition.
Hesse, Hermann. Steppenwolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990.
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