In the preface to the novel's 1960 edition, Hesse wrote that Steppenwolf was "more often and more violently misunderstood" than any of his other books. Hesse felt that his readers focused only on the suffering and despair that are depicted in Harry Haller's life, thereby missing the possibility of transcendence and healing.
In the moment of climax, it is unclear whether Haller actually kills Hermine or whether the "murder" is just another hallucination in the Magic Theater. It is argued that Hesse does not define reality based on what occurs in physical time and space; rather, reality is merely a function of metaphysical cause and effect. What matters is not whether the murder actually occurred, but rather that at that moment it was Haller's intention to kill Hermine. In that sense, Haller's various states of mind are more significant than his actions.
It is also notable that the very existence of Hermine in the novel is never confirmed; the manuscript left in Harry Haller's room reflects a story that completely revolves around his personal experiences. In fact when Harry asks Hermine what her name is, she turns the question around. When he is challenged to guess her name, he tells her that she reminds him of a childhood friend named Hermann, and therefore he concludes, her name must be Hermine. Metaphorically, Harry creates Hermine as if a fragment of his own soul has broken off to form a female counterpart.