Steppenwolf – Hermine

The lovely and generous Hermine takes Harry under her
wing and teaches him to live, putting him in touch with his long-ignored
sensuous side. As a hedonistic young courtesan, Hermine is Harry’s opposite
in many ways, yet also his close double. She enters his life by
a magical accident, as Harry goes to the Black Eagle tavern, where
the signboard man of the Magic Theater directs him to go. As a result,
from the start Hermine is clearly something more than a realistic
character. Hesse reveals Hermine’s magical, surreal aspects when
Harry finds that she resembles his boyhood friend Herman and impossibly
guesses that her name is a feminine version of his friend’s.
The closing passages of the novel reveal that Hermine
is actually a part of Harry. When Harry stabs her, her slain body
neatly shrinks to the size of a figurine. Although it is never clear
whether Harry murders Hermine or merely a hallucination of her,
the novel’s closing words suggest that Hermine has always been only
a reflection of Harry. Once Harry has integrated back into his personality
the life of the body that he has hitherto repressed, Hermine is
no longer needed and is therefore dispelled. She serves as Harry’s
magic mirror, calling out of him and making visible those parts
to which he had previously been blind. When Harry learns to see
himself clearly, he effectively destroys Hermine.