In The Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, Harry Haller, the protagonist of the novel, is a man of nearly fifty years of age, tired and pessimistic, sick of body and spirit; strange, unsociable, mysterious, full of talent and with an unlimited capacity for suffering. He is an introvert, punished by painful experiences, who feels ill at ease in the material world that surrounds him and seeks the truth through every experience imaginable; moreover, he is an individual who struggles with the two opposite natures that inhabit him: the spiritual and the instinctive.
Harry feels bored, unhappy, dissatisfied with himself. One day he rebels against this mediocrity and irrelevance that has marked his life; he requires some strong experience which will shake the monotony of his everyday existence.
Almost near suicide, he meet Armanda, a young and beautiful girl who is sensual, joyful and earthy, as opposed to the dark, pessimistic and intellectual nature of Harry. Armanda teaches Harry to enjoy the pleasures of life, the simple and small details that can make existence bearable: dancing, eating, laughing all provide release for the Steppenwolf, a man who doesn’t know how to laugh.
On one occasion Armanda commands him to learn to love, even a low and vulgar love. She introduces him to Maria, an instinctive creature, a sensual, physical symbol of love. A woman who is at the same time innocent and perverted; she teaches him pleasures unknown and, along with Pablo, a saxophone player in a jazz band, introduces Harry into the world of opium. However, the Steppenwolf is not completely happy, feeling a void for something inexplicable.
This novel concludes with a symbolic happening: during a masked ball, to which Haller is invited by Armanda, he identifies with that environment full of dance, music, and the enjoyment of worldly pleasures. Harry thinks that there is something magical about it and he confuses reality and fantasy. At that moment Harry “wakes up” and takes full awareness of things. Then there are scenes that carry a deep allegorical sense as there is a splitting of Harry’s soul; on the one hand, his yearning and tendency to the sublime; on the other, his attachment to worldly things. In a surreal and dreamlike climate, Armanda and Pablo appear, and they lead him to the “magic theater”, which represents the entire complexity of life. At one point Harry discovers to Armanda with Pablo, naked, after making love; then he kills her, that is to say, annihilating what dearest in his life. Harry is tried and executed. But once again to awaken and discover that everything has been a dream, a hallucination, a tragic and terrible simulation within the fascinating game of life.
The Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse portrays society in a particular way, showing the terrible dehumanizing effects that a society which lacks solidarity and communication, through its main character, a lonely and isolated individual who encounters great difficulty in interacting with the world.