Herman Hesses Demian Essay

This essay has a total of 3507 words and 13 pages.

Herman Hesses Demian


Demian is the story of a boy, Emil Sinclair, and his search for himself. Emil was raised
in a good traditional home at the turn of the century in the nation of Germany. His family
is very wealthy and they have a reputation as a principled, religious family. As a boy,
Sinclair views the world within the walls of his home as representing all that is good,
pure, and innocent. But starting at a young age, he feels an inner conflict between his
own little world, the 'world of light,'; and the outside world, or 'forbidden realm';
which represents sin and loneliness. Even though his mother, father, and two sisters
remain within the 'world of light';, he constantly feels attracted to the outside realm.
He ends up feeling uncertain between both of his little worlds, and not belonging to
either one of them.

This struggle between Sinclair's two worlds is evident when
Sinclair is about 10 years old. While playing one day with some fellow
schoolmates, Franz Kromer, an older kid, joins them. In an effort to
impress the older boy and his schoolmates, Sinclair makes up a story in which he and
another unnamed accomplice stole a bag of apples from a fellow neighbor. Although the
story is untrue, Kromer threatens Sinclair with exposure if Sinclair does not pay him off.
Unable to pay the full amount, Sinclair is forced to become Kromer's slave, ultimately
sending Sinclair into depression and paranoia. Sinclair feels trapped by Kromer, forced to
live within the 'forbidden realm';, which in turn exiles him from the 'world of light';
because he has defiled himself by lying and committing sinful acts for Kromer. This
experience is traumatic for Sinclair and he is often haunted by nightmares, he is unable
to eat, and he becomes withdrawn and sullen. His personality alters as he tries to cope
with the bondage of his slavery to this lower-class, troublesome kid, but he sees no
escape and reluctantly succumbs to what he believes to be his fate. The arrival of a new
kid in town, Max Demian, is noticed by everyone due to the strange aura that surrounds him
and his recently widowed mother. From the start, Sinclair feels a type of fascination for

Demian, a confusing feeling filled with both love and hate. 'He was in
every respect different from all the others, was entirely himself, with a personality all
his own which made him noticeable even though he did his best not to be noticed; his
manner and bearing was that of a prince disguised among farm boys, taking great pains to
appear one of them.';

The first encounter between Sinclair and Demian occurs one day
after school as the two boys are walking home. Sinclair had learned the biblical story of
Cain and Abel from the book of Genesis that day in class. Demian starts a conversation
about the story and challenges

Sinclair to look at the story from a different perspective. Demian
proposes that Cain carried a mark of distinction because he was feared
by others due to his strength and that Abel had been killed simply
because he was the weaker one of the two. Sinclair is impressed and at
the same time overwhelmed by this radical perspective which in fact
challenges all the traditions and teachings with which he had been
raised. He therefore denounces the idea as absurd, as a means to protect himself and all that he knows to be true.
It is not for some time later that Sinclair once again comes in contact with Demian. It is
on a rainy day in the town square after

Sinclair had a troublesome meeting with Kromer, who still plagues his
life, making him constantly miserable. Through mere observation, Demian assesses the
situation between Kromer and Sinclair, and Demian confronts Sinclair about his fear of
Kromer. Angered by Demian's accurate insight, Sinclair rudely brushes Demian off out of
fear and frustration, but within the next couple of days Sinclair is freed from his
terrifying bondage to Kromer when Demian intervenes without Sinclair's knowledge, causing
Kromer to leave Sinclair alone for good. Sinclair feels an immense sense of gratitude and
indebtedness towards Demian for saving him, but due to his immaturity and fear he is
unable to express this to Demian. Instead, Sinclair confesses everything to his parents
and regresses into a childlike state within the 'world of light'; which provides comfort
and security. But due to the severity of the experience and consequent loss of innocence,
Sinclair realizes that he can never really be a part of the 'world of light';. 'So, in the
blindness of my heart, I chose to be dependent on my father and mother, on the old,
cherished 'world of light', though I knew by now that it was not the only one.';

Several years pass before Demian and Sinclair have any more
contact. Then, due to odd circumstances, Demian is placed in Sinclair's confirmation class
even though he is two years older. At this time,Sinclair is dealing, to an even greater
extent, with the conflict between his two worlds, but no longer is Franz Kromer the
outside threat, rather his own sexual maturity and desires, now constantly plaguing him. A
bond is re-established between the two boys one day in class when the teacher recounts the
story of Cain and Abel, bringing back the memory of their first encounter with each other.
But this time Sinclair is not able to simply ignore the challenge of Demian's radical
interpretation of the story, instead, Sinclair feels challenged and motivated by the new
perspective. From this moment on, the two boys begin forming a friendship that will
inevitably span their entire lifetime. Demian's friendship is a constant challenge to
Sinclair's 'world of light'; as he often presents Sinclair with new ideas and
perspectives. This challenge helps to drive Sinclair towards new ways of thinking and
feeling, and in the end detachment from his childhood, his family, and the 'world of
light';. The fourth chapter brings the separation of Sinclair and Demian, as well as
Sinclair's separation from his family, when Sinclair is sent off to boarding school. This
foreign world offers only loneliness and insecurity to Sinclair, who does not fit in with
the other young men. Sinclair goes through a trying time of confusion and isolation at the
boarding school as he searches for the

road to himself. At one point, out of desperation, Sinclair resorts to
rebellion. He begins to drink in bars and he becomes renowned among his classmates for
being careless, sarcastic, and harsh. Slowly his grades begin to suffer and his reputation
among professors is severely

tarnished. 'I simply did what I had to do, because I had no idea what to do with myself otherwise.';
Finally, his father is summoned and Sinclair is threatened with expulsion. But these
consequences are not enough to change him, and just when he thinks his life could not be
more senseless, he sees a young woman in a park one day. Her beauty overwhelms him and he
becomes infatuated with her, giving her the name Beatrice. This infatuation is the
motivation he needs to turn his life around. 'Once more I was trying most strenuously to
construct an intimate 'world of light' for myself out of the shambles of a period of
devastation; once more I sacrificed everything within me to the aim of banishing darkness
and evil from myself.';

He also begins to paint, at first out of the desire to paint
Beatrice, but since he is unable to do so to his own satisfaction, he
paints all that he sees around him. Then one day, almost without knowingit, he paints the
face of a woman that will forever alter his life. 'It resembled a kind of image of God or
a holy mask, half male, half female, ageless, as purposeful as it was dreamy, as rigid as
it was secretly alive.';

He worships this painting, this image, finding security and
comfort in it. He begins to dream again as he had as a child, and his
dreams are filled with her. Then one morning he wakes up to realize that she resembles
someone who is real, someone he knows. She resembles Demian. This realization brings back
memories of his friend whom he had admired and respected so much. A terrible longing to
see him again fills his heart, although he has no means to find him.

Then one day Sinclair recounts their first encounter with each
other, the day Demian had told him his version of the story of Cain and Abel. Sinclair
also remembers Demian's interest that day in an old coat of arms that hung above the door
of Sinclair's house. The emblem is that of a sparrow hawk. Sinclair feels propelled by
this memory to paint the old emblem. After several days of painting, he finishes it to
find a picture of a sparrow hawk emerging or fighting it's way out of a globe or a giant
egg. He then mails the painting to Demian, not knowing if it will ever reach him. A while
later, to his great surprise, Sinclair finds a note in his book one day during class. The
note reads: 'The bird fights his way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be
born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God's name is Abraxas.';

The note is from Demian. Not understanding what exactly the note means, Sinclair is just
grateful to hear from his old friend who he misses so much. For the next several months
Sinclair lives in isolation, he lives with his painting of the hawk, his painting of
Demian, and his dreams. One particular dream comes to him often, continually gaining in
meaning for him. The dream is of the woman who resembles Demian, but she is more feminine,
almost motherly. This woman embraces him as he enters his father's house, first passing
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