Demian Study Guide

Demian Study Guide

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We all know the novel “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, written in 1922, his interpretation of the journey of a young Indian Prince from his life of luxury to his ultimate enlightenment and becoming a Buddha. But only a few of the readers know that it wasn’t the first work of the author dedicated to the theme of search of self and one’s meaning. Demian, written in 1919 is another work dedicated to the same subject. It is less wrapped in mythology: our protagonist, Emil Sinclair, lives in modern Germany, like an everyman a reader can easily relate to - but still, the overall atmosphere is very similar to Siddhartha. We see Emil starting as an average boy, with average child problems like bullying and being shamed in front of the other kids. But when he meets - or, better to say, starts talking to - his mysterious and aloof classmate Max Demian, everything changes.

Despite Emil Sinclair is the hero and the narrator of the story, all the plot is definitely wrapped around Demian. He becomes Emil’s mentor in very Eastern style, similar to Siddhartha’s. He is both a teacher and a tempter, making Sinclair question every statement of his and Emil’s own beliefs he thought to be unshakable. Dismantling the comfortable but illusional world created for Emil by his parents, Demian, painfully but carefully, prepares him for the adult life.

Despite the story mostly takes place in a (relatively) real world, we see that sometimes the plot wanders into the realm of fantasies, illusions and even hallucinations. Emil’s mind seems to wrap the hardest revelations in the form of fantasy tales to digest and accept the ideas of the adulthood. Every character Emil meets on his way to maturity is both a real, living person with their flaws and virtues, and also a symbol, a metaphor, an embodiment of something. Beatrice, the pretty girl from his neighborhood, becomes the holy and radiant Beatrice in the sense Dante described his beloved in the “Divine Comedy”. Delinquent and hedonistic Alfons Beck becomes the ultimate symbol of sin of corruption, determined to drive Emil away from his chosen path…

If you like the coming of age stories that have deep meaning inside them, that you can relate to even when you are adult - this book is for you. If Siddhartha by Hesse left you under impression, try “Demian” and it will definitely give you the same feelings.

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Quotes with Page Number Demian by Hermann Hesse

“Descubrí el gusto de la muerte, y la muerte sabe amarga porque es nacimiento, es miedo e incertidumbre ante una aterradora renovación.” — — — Hermann Hesse, Demian


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