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One of the great writers of the 20th century tells the dramatic story of a young man's awakening to selfhood.
Few people nowadays know what man is. Many sense this ignorance and die the more easily because of it, the same way that I will die more easily once I have completed this story.
I do not consider myself less ignorant than most people. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me. My story is not a pleasant one; it is neither sweet nor harmonious, as invented stories are; it has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams—like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves.
Each man's life represents a road toward himself, an attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that-one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can. Each man carries the vestiges of his birth—the slime and eggshells of his primeval past—with him to the end of his days. Some never become human, remaining frog, lizard, ant. Some are human above the waist, fish below. Each represents a gamble on the part of nature in creation of the human. We all share the same origin, our mothers; all of us come in at the same door. But each of us—experiments of the depths—strives toward his own destiny. We can understand one another; but each of us is able to interpret himself to himself alone.
Writing in the existential tradition of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky and drawing on the teachings of Carl Jung, and upon his own experiences as a child and adolescent, Hesse presents a compelling portrait of an individual who finds within himself the means to resolve anxiety and inner conflicts and to perceive in the turmoil of his world the promise of a new, enlightened order. Hesse's classic novel has transfixed generations of readers with its dynamicvision of individual and social transformation.Discussion Topics
2. What characterizes the two realms that Sinclair identifies at the novel's beginning--the realm of light and the forbidden realm? How do the two realms interact throughout the novel, in terms of Sinclair's experience of them and in terms of what we learn about them? How does Sinclair's relationship to each change?
3. What is Max Demian's relationship with each of the two realms? In what ways does he embody elements of both?
4. Sinclair insists that "my interest centers on the steps that I took to reach myself." What are those "steps"? What specific incidents and stages mark Sinclair's movement from innocent childhood to self-aware adulthood?
5. What is the importance of the biblical story of Cain and the mark of Cain? How would you describe the repeatedly cited "sign" that is so important to Demian and his mother? What endows Sinclair with that sign?
6. What function do Sinclair's dreams serve? How does each relate to the stage of personal development during which it occurs?
7. What is "the dream of the lost paradise" to which Sinclair refers in Chapter 3 ("Among Thieves")? Why does he call it "the worst and most ruthless of dreams"?
8. What are the most important lessons that Sinclair learns from Demian? How do they affect his character and his life? Are all of the lessons learned beneficial? How relevant are they to living in today's world?
9. What is Pistorius's role in Sinclair's progress? What are the similarities and differences between his influence on Sinclair and Demian's influence? Why does Pistorius's influence come to an end while Demian's continues?
10. What is the importance of Sinclair's three paintings of the heraldic bird, "Beatrice," and Frau Eva? What purposes and consequences are associated with each? What is the significance of the fact that they seem to contain opposites (male and female, for example)?
11. What are the implications of Pistorius's statement to Sinclair that "You aren't allowed to be afraid of anything, you can't consider prohibited anything that the soul desires"? How does this reinforce advice received from Demian? Is such a guide for individual behavior workable in everyday life?
12. After his break with Pistorius, Sinclair experiences the "sharp realization" that "each man has his 'function' but none which he can choose himself, define, or perform as he pleases. . . . Each man had only one genuine vocation--to find the way to himself. . . . His task was to discover his own destiny . . . and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself." To what extent is the novel a dramatization of this realization?
13. What are the rewards and costs of discovering one's "own destiny" and living that destiny?
14. What is Frau Eva's role in the novel? Why do Sinclair and we meet her only near the end of the novel, even though she is mentioned much earlier? How would you explain Sinclair's attraction to her?
15.The novel ends with Sinclair looking into "the dark mirror" and beholding his image as "completely resembling" Demian--"my brother, my master." Does this indicate Sinclair's success in achieving a realization of his own self or his ultimate submersion in a more powerful personality?
Written by Hal Hager, Hal Hager & Associates, Somerville, NJ.About the Author
"Hesse is not a traditional teller of tales but a novelist of ideas and a moralist of a high order... . The autobiographical undercurrent gives Demian an Existentialist intensity and a depth of understanding that are rare in contemporary fiction."Hermann Hesse was born in 1877 in Calw, on the edge of the Black Forest. In 1919 he moved to Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1962. He is the author of many highly successful novels, including Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, Journey to the East, and Magister Ludi, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1946.
Posted February 8, 2009
Hermann Hesse is without a doubt one of the most intriguing writers I have ever read.<BR/><BR/>This story considers the evolving, somewhat troubled psyche of a German youth, Sinclair, as he matures during the decade prior to WWI.<BR/><BR/>As a prepubescent boy, Sinclair recognizes the realm of good and light, symbolized by his God fearing parents and innocent younger sisters, as separate from the realm of evil and dark, symbolized by Franz Kromer, an older, opportunist who extorts Sinclair into fibbing and petty thievery. Another older boy, Demian, rescues Sinclair from Kromer's clutches, and then sows a new perception of the light and dark realms with an inverted interpretation of the parable of Cain and Abel. Demian perceives the mark on Cain's forehead not as a curse, but as a badge of courage, character and power.<BR/><BR/>Tainted by his experience with Kromer, Sinclair cannot entirely reject Demian's heroic characterization of Cain, and Demian nurtures this upset of clarity, muddling Sinclair's once clear distinction between the realms of good and evil. Demian then plants the alternative perception that the individual must delve into the self to discover his peculiar fate and destiny, a unique purpose apart from the mundane consensus, the mores of the hoard. Hesse then projects Sinclair's turmoil into a characterization of, or perhaps a reflection of, the mass psyche of prewar Europe.<BR/><BR/>I first read "Demian" forty two years ago, during my high scgool years. At the time I was struggling with my sexuality and was attracted to the homosexual undertones between Demian and Sinclair.<BR/><BR/>For some reason I saved "Demian," I forgot, long ago, why I saved "Demian," why I did not shuck it off along with my other old skins. Now that I am an outed homosexual, I believe that Sinclair, the main character, is not entering the normal world on any level. In fact he is leaving it. The first time he meets Demian, both know there is something different about him. As their friendship/relationship grows, it become smore and more clear that they should not be part of the normal world, where people to choose to be part of a group, to share a religion, to accept the truth as it is told to them. Demian shows sinclair a new world, where people of a higher intelligence, and by that I am referring to more than simply an academic intelligence, will find each other.¿
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Posted June 9, 2005
Demian enables the reader to see inside of himself. If you read only one book this year, please, let it be this masterpiece by Hesse. It will penetrate in ways that will astound you. For anyone who has felt the lonliness of being this is a must read.
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Posted September 5, 2012
Transcending the learned religion of childhood, Hermann Hesse captures the angst of a young man examining his faith. At times, I felt as if I was reading my own biography.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 25, 2007
Demian, its very thoughtful. Uou start out reading it thinking, ohh god, this whole book will be continuously repeating itself, that it will teach you absolutely nothing. However, I had to read a book for my english review, and I am only a junior in high school, but I enjoyed this piece very much. I am planning on reading this again in a few years, when I am a bit more mature. I found this book a bit hard to keep up with, but, thoughtful. It makes you think.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 27, 2005
I am 14 years old and I read Demian for the first time in 5th grade. Since then it has been my favorite book. It teaches you about being yourself and finding your inner self. It is beautifully written and is a great read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2004
This book came to me at a time when I really needed it. It features a young boy named Emil Sinclair who is drowning in life. His encounters with Max Demian are touching and beautiful, and the ideas that are brought about are heartwarming. This book is a perfect blend of the light and dark sides of life, something thats very rare in literature. The principles and moral of this story are something that everyone should strive for, but few achieve. This book did not let me down, where other books of its genre, Catcher in the Rye comes to mind, did. The ending is something out of a dream, yet so simple and practical. I recomend this book to anyone and everyone, it really is a timless adventure. Love it or hate it, Herman Hesse paints a vivid picture of the definition of a 'self', and it is magnificient.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 15, 2004
Demain is probably the best novel i have ever read. Herman Hesse is someone Art Bell should interview, if only Hesse were still alive. Read all his novels. They will change your life for the better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 8, 2003
Truly a great book. Hesse really nails teenage anghst. I particularly enjoyed the book because i really connected with the main character. This book really makes you think.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 17, 2003
This great book and Hesse's Siddhartha were part of a great process ( along with the Beatles, science fiction and other influences) that helped lead me to trying meditation and studying Buddhism and other enlightening teachings that have helped make my life so much more fufilling. I read it as a teenager and it really stirred up my life and raised many questions that I felt a burning need to answer. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2002
This is such an amazing book. When I picked it up I had never heard of it before, but Hermann Hesse is one of my favorite authors. I am so glad that I bought it because it really amazed me. All of the things about the conscious, unconscious, and dreams really amazed me. I actually cried at the end because it was so awesome when Max gave Emil a..... well if you have read this you know what I am talking about, it is so beautiful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2002
I really loved the book.... until I reached the end, which I found extremely disappointing from Hesse. Overall sensational and I would recommend reading, thought provoking ideas on fate, religion, and right of passage. Don¿t count on the end of the novel to properly tie things together and give you closure, I wished I had stopped a chapter earlier and could tell you this was one of my favorite novels.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2002
'Demian' is not a page-turner; its purpose is not to entertain you. If this book is to be truly appreciated, readers must take the time to consider how another human being's thoughts apply to his own. Emil Sinclair's personal experience is his alone, and yet is connected to the process of awakening that each human must endure in order to become himself; that is, to break free of the self that is composed of society's influences. I chose three stars for my ranking of this book because I both adored and despised it as I stumbled through the words and tried to build an understanding based on the ideas Hesse presented. I recommend this book only to the serious soul-searcher, for most others, including myself, will never discover its true depth.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2002
i found that through every stage of this novel, i could relate it somehow to my own life. the self discovery as well as the philosophy is very thought provoking and enjoyable. a great blend of ideas and plot which in the end forms a book of true quality.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2001
I loved this novel! It is written so beautifully. The tone Hesse took and the mood he created was exceptional! It;s one of the most moving books ever. The mood is a combination between majestic, enchanted, and grim. A very big contrast, and that was used for a reason. Hesse was trying to get across the difference of experiences in our lives. He is also trying to say that all good things come to an end. Just when things are starting to get wonderful for Sinclair, the main charector, a big problem occurs. The ending is just amazing. Incredily moving! This is a thought-provoking novel. It is not very long, but it took me a long time to read because I had to stop and think so much. Reading one chapter is like reading an entire novel! Email me to talk about this book, or any other.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2001
This has to be one of the best and most intriguing novels i have ever read. I highly recomend that you read this novel. but don't take my word for it. 'Hesse's novels from demian on represent the search for timeless values' Theodore Ziolkowski, in his The Novels of Hermann Hesse(copyright 1965 by Princeton University Press; Princeton Paperback 1967; reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press), Princeton University Press), Princeton University Press, 1965. 'Hesse is an origonal inventor of unique fictional divices,' Ralph Freedman, 'Hermann Hesse,' in Contemporary Literature, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1969 (copyright 1969 by the Regents of the University of Wisconsin) 'Of Hesse's permanent place in twentieth-century literature there can be little doubt. ... All his major works of fiction from Demian to Das Glasperlen will remain literary landmarks.' George Wallis Field, in his Hermann Hesse, Twayne, 1970. I have already read the book but i am buying just so i can read it whenever i want. This book has so many ideas about fate and god that had never even entered into my mind. They might not be right but they are diffinatly interesting. BUY THIS BOOK!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 15, 2001
I think i would have to say that if you're creative, when reading this book, all your ideas, your feelings of wanting to paint, write, explore a small town, design a house, build a Cobra kit car, etc., they all become augmented when reading Demian. An author, or friend, who inspires one in this way is one you must read, and if you've a friend like that, you're very very lucky.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2001
Demian is a wild and wooly psychological epic, and I am not sure what it is trying to say. In reading it, the experience I had was aesthetically profound, I must give it that. However, art can be constructed, while still retaining its status as art, in a form that negatively impacts the emotions of the reader. This book does just that, but in my opinion, not in any constructive way. We can be horrified, and sometimes should be, but we should gain something from the experience. I won't go through the plot points, except to say that Emil Sinclair is a very disturbed youth. The ways in which he finds meaning in his life are fantastic, eerie, and borderline sadistic. At the end of the book, my conscience was so troubled by this story that I could find solace in one thought only: 'Thank God this is a fantasy.' Were the events in Sinclair's life plausible, I would be irreparably changed for the worse by the horror of this masterfully crafted, repulsive piece of art.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2001
At first I had to read this book for English Class and i thought it was going to be really boring. I was wrong. It ended up being one of the best books I've ever read! It deals with views on life and Religion. However, I would only recommend this book for advanced readers :-)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 5, 2001
This book is one of the most well written books I have ever read. It has some very intelligent and original thoughts. It¿s not a matter of agreeing with Hesse¿s thoughts, but considering them. The book is about Emil Sinclair who looks for his own path and struggles greatly along the way. His path is different from others of the world for a very specific reason, but if I tell you that I might ruin the book. In his search he looks for his own god. He firmly believes in fate. This book has some very different ideas about fate and god, which are conveyed through Sinclair¿s life. I do not agree with most of these thoughts particularly, but the originality and the strong way in which they are conveyed is what makes this book so great.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2000