The Path To Understanding In Herman Hesse’s Demian

1342 words - 5 pages

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 understands the abilities of man, Sinclair begins to "regard and interpret religious stories and dogma more freely, more individually, even playfully, with more imagination," (60). He now enters the dark realm of the world full of forbidden treasures and mysterious tales. Sinclair's surroundings become blank; nothing matters to him any more except his inner being, much the "way leaves fall around a tree in autumn, a tree unaware of the rain running down its sides, of the sun or the frost, and of life gradually retreating inward. The tree does not die. It waits," (68).

A separation of these soulmates, Demian and Sinclair, occurs once Sinclair goes off to preparatory school. Trying to dismiss this detrimental detachment, he gets away from the restraints of society, taking short walks and "enjoying" a kind of rapture tinged with melancholy, scorn of the world and self-hatred," (70). Determined to release this energy, he begins drinking and going to bars. "Once again he belonged entirely to the world of darkness and to the devil," (76) until another being of great power over Sinclair comes into his life. This woman, Beatrice, allows him to "come home again to himself, even if only as the slave and servant of a cherished image,"...

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