The disease in Steppenwolf is a disease that, as stated in the book, “….affects not only the weak and the worthless but also the strongest in spirit and the richest in gifts.”. This disease is loneliness. Some would not call this a disease, they would call it a feeling. It, in fact, really is a disease affecting the thoughts, feelings, and actions of a person, and in this case Harry Haller, or the Steppenwolf.
This disease, which affects the innermost parts of a person’s soul, has affected Mr. Haller for quite some time. Loneliness can change a person greatly and, if in large enough quantities over a long period of time, can destroy a person, even drive them to suicide. This is what happens to Mr. Haller. His loneliness has eaten away at him for so many years that he has lost sight of the happiness in life. He is no longer able to enjoy life to it’s fullest potential because he will not let himself do so. He has no one and, at times, he feels that life is not worth living. This disease of loneliness has brought him to the point of suicide, brought him to the edge of existence. He is at the point of suicide when he meets his treatment and his cure. Companionship and love.
That is the only help for this most debilitating of diseases, companionship and love. One will help but only both together will be able to cure him of his wretched mental sickness. His cure happens to come in the form of a beautiful young woman named Hermine. She is his treatment and his cure, but whether he allows her to help him is up to himself.
Hermine shows Mr. Haller all he has become. She brings his disease to the surface in all it’s pain and does so rather bluntly, openly criticizing all that he says and does. Mr. Haller responds to her rather well and begins to like her more and more. She has already begun to help him even though he has no idea that she is doing so.
She helps Mr. Haller in many different ways. Firstly, she gives him the companionship that he so dearly needs. She does tell him though, that this companionship will end in time, but only when he is in love with her. At that time she wants him to kill her. This comes as a shock to Mr. Haller at first but later on he realizes that he, in some unknown way, knew that this would come and that it would be an obstacle he would have to overcome.
She also helps him overcome his disease by making him more social with other people. She introduces him to many new people, two of them though help Mr. Haller the most through his many problems. The first person to help him is Maria. Maria is a beautiful young woman who Hermine has set Mr. Haller up with. She offers Mr. Haller love and companionship but not real love, the feelings he has for her are purely sexual and his real feelings rest with Hermine, although he may not know.