The Path to Understanding in Herman Hesse’s Demian

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The Path to Understanding in Demian

In Hermann Hesse's, "Demian," Emil Sinclair develops into a self-cognizant man after experiencing true friendship and the purity of life. Immaturity and innocence surrounds him as a child until a confidant by the name of Max Demian places him on the path to understanding himself. After opening his eyes to the feebleness of life, the boy realizes his true purpose of existence.

Beginning life in the "realm of light," (7) Sinclair passes through life being criticized and labeled an outcast. Once he tells a small fib in order to gain approval from his peers, an inner destruction begins to take place.

My condition at that time was a kind of madness. Amid the ordered peace of our house I lived shyly, in agony, like a ghost; I took no part in the life of the others, rarely forgot myself for an hour at a time. To my father, who was often irritated and asked me what was the matter, I was completely cold. (25)

Not until Demian, whose "manner and bearing was that of a prince disguised among farm boys," (27) enters his life do things begin to brighten. This new boy seems to look past the lonely, depressed appearance of Sinclair, irectly into his soul that longs for someone to confide all of his secrets and desires to. Demian sees a "mark of Cain" (32) upon Sinclair's forehead, which signifies "a little more intellect and boldness in his look than people were used to," (29).

After much conversing, Sinclair realizes the vastness of Demian's intelligence and that his magnificent mental strength can overpower anyone and anything, including the priest in their Conformation class. Demian explains to him the power of his will and the ability to control the mind through concentration. Once he unders...

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...ms, and thoughts.

After Demian has a premonition "that the collapse of an old world is indeed imminent," (160) war breaks out in Russia. Sinclair realizes that he must now separate himself from these beloved people and serve his country on the front line of battle. Sinclair has the most profound experience while in the war. After being injured, a soldier takes him to a shelter where his wounds are dressed and where he meets up with Demian, a lieutenant in the battle. Lying there on that bed, in that room, Sinclair recounts his life with Demian. His final thoughts comprise the realization of his strong affinity with Demian and how true the friendship became. He finally remarks, "Sometimes when I find the key and climb deep into myself I need only bend over that dark mirror to behold my own image, now completely resembling him, my brother, my master" (171).

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