March 14: Steel “With the World”

On page 16, Steel suggests that the Hesse child’s story “lends itself easily to such analysis of human limitations”. The connection between the boy and his “natural state” as a wolf help the boy surpass normal limits, but also hinder him. Using evidence in the article, would you agree that the Hesse story shows limitations of people or does it prove that humans and nature should be more united, like in Bisclavret or Yonec?

One thought on “March 14: Steel “With the World”

  1. I think the article argues that humans and nature already are more united than we give credit for, since we partake of the same web of interconnectedness, in terms of our participation in the cycle of eating and being eaten, as any other animals and plants. (By the way, I question the moral conclusion Steel makes at the end, that we can only pretend to have clean consciences because of this. How can we bear any guilt for something over which we have no control over? Is Steel arguing that the only moral high ground would be refusing to flourish, and starving ourselves to death? How can that be natural? Doesn’t that put humans at a greater distance from nature and the world than any spiritual principle ever could?)

    I would also argue against the claim that the boy’s connection with the wolves hinders him, or even that it helps him surpass normal limits. As Steel points out, the boy is almost entirely passive in the two stories, so it’s hard for me to see what limits he might be surpassing. If anything, it seems the wolves are the ones who surpass limits (i.e., their tendency to see humans only as prey). And when the boy is brought into human society, he prefers the ways of life he has known as a wolf, but this preference is exactly that: a preference. There’s nothing in the stories, as far as I can tell, to suggest that this preference was a handicap, or really anything more than a curiosity for the storyteller or those who witnessed it. True, it is said that he was made a spectacle at the court of the prince, and one can assume that this wasn’t a pleasant experience for him, but this is hardly the boy’s fault or the fault of any limitations on his part. It’s rather the fault of those who can’t see him as anything more than his particular past.

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