He went on two legs, wore clothes and was a human being, but nevertheless he was in reality a wolf of the Steppes. He had learned a good deal . . . and was a fairly clever fellow. What he had not learned, however, was this: to find contentment in himself and his own life. The cause of this apparently was that at the bottom of his heart he knew all the time (or thought he knew) that he was in reality not a man, but a wolf of the Steppes.
These are the opening lines of the “Treatise on the Steppenwolf,” a work that describes minutely the psychological condition of a man, Harry Haller, who harbors two souls within him. One soul is that of an ordinary man interested in the ordinary aspects of human life. The other—his truer, deeper self—is a wild, cruel wolf of the steppes. By this point in Steppenwolf, the same tormented half-wolf, half-man characterization has already been put forward from two other points of view: from Harry’s own claims and from those of his landlady’s nephew in the preface. Now, these impossibly accurate opening lines of the Treatise provide a corroboration of Harry’s central conflict, while introducing the first hints that the novel is not realistic.
In addition, by providing another perspective from which we may view Harry, the Treatise reflects on a formal level the multiple selves that exist within the single individual the Treatise describes. For a work such as Steppenwolf, which has complex theoretical content, the technique of such a Treatise is a very effective invention. It enables Hesse to lay out his beliefs about the nature of the soul in a straightforward, didactic fashion.