Essay about Comparing Self Discovery in American Beauty and Hermann Hesse's Demian

Essay about Comparing Self Discovery in American Beauty and Hermann Hesse's Demian

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Self Discovery in American Beauty and Hermann Hesse's Demian


After Jane Burnham's first meeting with Ricky Fitts in American Beauty she responds by saying, "He's so confident. That can't be real." If it isn't real, is it a dream? If it is a dream, is it Jane's dream? If it is Jane's dream, is this her unconscious wish for pleasure or happiness...to be like Ricky Fitts? There seems to be a theme running through the movie American Beauty where we see people looking to other people as a source to receive their own sense of confidence, or ultimately, happiness. This is also evident in Demian by Hermann Hesse when we see Emil Sinclair seeking out Max Demian. This paper will serve as a means to compare two similar works of art that both incorporate the idea of realizing one's dreams through self-discovery. "An enlightened man had but one duty-to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led" (Hesse 131).

In Both American Beauty and Demian we see examples of people who are afraid to be themselves. We see this with Lester Burnham in American Beauty. He works in the confines of a cubicle in a job he hates. He puts on an act at work around his boss Brad and is afraid to be himself. At one point his boss says to Lester: "Hey Les! You gotta minute?" Lester responds in a way kissing up to his boss, "For you Brad...I've got five." This is also present in Demian with Emil Sinclair. Emil Sinclair is afraid to be himself in the beginning when confronted by Franz Kromer. Emil feels that he has to make up a story about how he stole some apples from a garden in order to win the approval of Franz Kromer. All of this changes for both characters once they meet their respective spiritual tea...


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...bag also represents chance, free association, and automatism, the techniques that were used by the Surrealists.
All of the perceptions of spontaneity are one and the same. It's nature's way. "That is the world, that is the tao, but perhaps that makes us feel afraid. We may ask, "If all that is happening spontaneously, who's in charge? I am not in charge, that is pretty obvious, but I hope there is God or somebody looking after all this" (Watts).

Works Cited

Hesse, Hermann. Demian. New York: Harper & Row, 1925.

Krishnamurti, J. Think on These Things. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Stevenson, Jay. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eastern Philosophy. Indianapolis: Macmillan USA, Inc., 2000.

Thompson, Mel. Eastern Philosophy. Chicago: NTC Contemporary Publishing, 1999.

Watts, Alan. Taoism. Project Unicorn: The Alan Watts Archive. Online. 10 April 2002.

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