Steppenwolf's Decision to Live
In the novel, Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, the main character, the Steppenwolf, considers committing suicide. He tries to justify taking his life with religious and philosophical rationales, but in the argument he finds that his life is worth living and suicide not a logical option. Sadly though, the novel provides little evidence beyond the Steppenwolf's own feelings as to why he cannot commit suicide. It is the intent of this paper, with some religious and philosophical references, to shed light on the reasoning behind the Steppenwolf's decision to live. The issue of suicide has been addressed throughout history by many critics. Many try to justify taking one's own life, but for different reasons. The disparity in justifications forces the individual to decipher applicable reasoning and determine if suicide is justifiable. The Steppenwolf is one of these individuals.
The Steppenwolf is controlled by two souls-one of a wolf and one of a man. For men or human beings the soul is the center of life. The soul is immortal and believed to continue into the afterlife. Religion and philosophy both view the soul as the center of the man and the aim of their respective ideas. The Steppenwolf is controlled by two instincts directly correlated to the souls of the wolf and the man. One to act like a secluded wolf and another to interact with people like a man.
Because of the two souls, the issue of a suicide therefore, must be viewed for both wolf and man. As to suicide for the wolf, there is no religion for beasts and consequently no religious justification of suicide. Secondly, beasts have no philosophy and no means of knowing their existence. Beasts have no concept of the life they live and therefore cannot philosophically justify suicide by ending their existence. Consequently, only the soul of the man can decide the need for suicide.
The ultimate goal of the Steppenwolf is pure individuality. "Solitude is independence. It has been my wish and with the years I had attained it. It was cold. . . . wonderfully still and vast like the cold stillness of space in which the stars revolve" (The Steppenwolf. 37 ). The Steppenwolf yearns for the total solitude provided by suicide but, the Steppenwolf has found it without physically killing himself. By doing this mentally, he has committed a psychological suicide. The treatise addresses this as a "suicide" as well, but the psychological suicide cannot exist on the same level as a physical suicide. The Steppenwolf admits that even while pursuing his "suicide" he had contacts with others. "He received invitations, presents, pleasant letters; but no more. No one came near to him" (Steppenwolf. 46-47). He had not committed a full suicide and removed himself totally from the world.
With the option for a suicide at hand, the Steppenwolf must find a means of justification. One course of action is to look for it in religion. In the Hindu...