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Hermann Hesse's Demian

 

The biblical story of Abel and Cain was deeply rooted in this novel. 

This theme was used to explore the life of a young man growing up in Germany. 

Compared to the novel Siddhartha, Demian had a more surrealistic quality to

it.  Some of the physical events that occurred would not have been possible in

reality.  In Siddhartha, only the mental events were surreal.  The theme of

self-discovery was explored with a Jung approach. Hermann Hesse was obviously

under the influence of Dr. Carl Jung when he wrote the novel. 

 

     The story was told as a lookback into the past.  By the end of the first

couple of pages, Emil Sinclair explicitly revealed  this fact to the reader. 

The development of the two worlds of good and evil took place early in the

novel.  Sinclair's home and his family symbolized the good of the world, while

almost everything else outside of the household was considered the evils of

the world.  Max Demian was a strange being because he seemed to be an all-

knowing character.  He was the wise one, similar to the river in Siddhartha. 

As the story developed, the narrator (Sinclair) became lost in his dreams and

the boundaries between reality and fantasy were frequently mixed up.  Because

of his troublesome dreams, Sinclair slowly lost control of his life and was

controlled by them.

 

     The paintings done by Sinclair were one of the most symbolic of all

symbols.  His paintings transformed from one figure to another, right before

his eyes.  Some times, they were two of more figures at once.  For example,

his painting transformed from a picture of Demian, to Demian's mother, to

Beatrice, to himself, and to the bird.  There were periods when the painting

showed all four of these figures combined.  In some every strange way it

represented all of them.  This idea still shocks me today. Demian's mother

represented some kind of mother figure.  This could be traced to the

influences of Jung.

 

     A major image was the fires that Sinclair and Pistorius stared into.  The

bright yellow and red colours brought on the images of the devil and evilness. 

When Sinclair stared into the fire, he was exploring the dark world.

 

     In general, the author believed that in order to discover oneself, one

must first destroy the world around them. It must then be built up again,

slowly and painfully.  This belief was symbolized in the images of the bird

breaking away from its egg.  Sinclair was consumed by this thought.  He

dreamed of it,  painted pictures of it, and had seen it in this town.  From

suffering comes redemption and this was the only way to experience life.  The

author brought out the feeling that the symbolic bird was eating Sinclair from

the inside out.  In the story Demian forced Sinclair to swallow the picture of

the bird. Sinclair had felt the bird inside himself. Sinclair was consumed in

his thoughts.

 

     Sinclair shifted several times from the good world and the evil world,

trying to find his place in society.  By the end, he discovered that the world

must have both of these worlds.  With the help of Demian, he developed a new

kind of God that was both good and evil.  He was called Abraxas.  This final

idea was caused by a new interpretation of the story of Abel and Cain.  Cain

had a mark on him because God had thought of him as unique and not evil.  Cain

was the stronger of the two brothers and his actions were justified.  Though

Demian had corrupted Sinclair by teaching him how to interpret the bible,

Demian was like a father-figure to Sinclair.  Demian had lifted Sinclair out

of his ruined life and had given him freedom.  Demian was some kind of free

spirit, almost like Christ.

 

     Similar to the story of Siddhartha, at one point in the novel Sinclair

discovered the beauty of the world around him.  Sinclair became as wise as

Demian by the end of the novel.  In the final page, the death of Demian

signified the achievement of his goal.  He had gained experience in life. He

had discovered himself.  Demian had moved on to another world when he saw that

Sinclair no longer needed his help.

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