Demian | Study Guide

Hermann Hesse

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Demian | Chapter 8 : Beginning of the End | Summary

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Summary

While Emil Sinclair has passed a peaceful summer at Mother Eve's, he knows he is not destined to live always in peace. One day he has the sudden knowledge that the time is growing near for him to be separated from Mother Eve. Overcome with regret about taking no action to win her love, he sits in the middle of the room and thinks about her with all his energy. He anticipates Mother Eve will come to him, full of passion, but it is Max Demian, not Mother Eve, who comes. Demian informs him that war has begun, and as he is a lieutenant he will soon leave for the field. He adds that Sinclair will be called up shortly as well.

Demian also notes Sinclair must have called either to him or to Mother Eve, because she felt something and sent him to share the news about the war. Although disturbed by talk of war, Sinclair is elated about the success of his telepathic message. That night Sinclair has dinner with Demian and Mother Eve. After dinner she tells him, "You know the call now and if ever you need someone who bears the sign, call me again."

Demian goes off to war, and Sinclair follows that winter. He sees men, "living and dying, approach fate magnificently" and feels he has underestimated them. He comes to believe the violence of war is just an expression of the soul of humanity, which "wished to rave and kill, to destroy and die, in order to be able to be born anew." It is like a bird fighting its way out of the egg of the world, destroying it in the process.

One night in spring, Sinclair has a vision of men streaming over the countryside. Among them is the figure of a god with the appearance of Mother Eve and with stars in its hair. The men disappear into the goddess, who shrinks down and appears to be in pain. Suddenly stars come from her forehead and spread across the sky. One of the stars descends and seems to seek out Sinclair. Then it bursts and throws him to the ground. After the vision Sinclair is found with multiple wounds.

As the injured Sinclair is conveyed by cart and stretcher, he feels a will or force leading him forward. Finally, he feels as if he has arrived at a place where he was called to be. He looks around, and there is Max Demian, smiling at him and then leaning in close. "Can you still remember Frank Kromer?" he asks. Sinclair acknowledges the remark with a smile. Demian says he will have to go away, and if Sinclair needs him, he will not come. Rather, if Sinclair will listen to the voice inside him, he will "notice it is I, that I am in you." He also gives Sinclair a kiss from Mother Eve.

The novel closes as Sinclair reflects that all he went through was painful. However, now he has the key to the place where the pictures painted by his destiny are reflected in the mirror of his soul. In that mirror, he says, his reflection looks just like Demian, his "guide and friend."

Analysis

The chapter begins with a reflective tone as Emil Sinclair looks back at his time of peace in Mother Eve's household. Although he enjoyed it, he knows he is destined to experience agony. In addition, when Sinclair recounts his time at the front, he takes a humbler tone toward the rest of humanity. He sees men behave with more courage than he expects as they face fate. These observations suggest a new level of maturity—a broadening of Sinclair's understanding of other humans.

Sinclair's new awareness coincides with the emphasis on rebirth in this chapter. Most of the novel addresses Sinclair's personal rebirth—he is the bird fighting its way out of the egg—but this focus has begun to shift, and by the final chapter Sinclair's personal rebirth is tied to the rebirth of humanity and the world. Now the soul and will of humanity are the bird, and the egg is the world being destroyed by war. The vision of the god/goddess Sinclair sees in the sky is also a birth image. The hordes of people are taken into, or consumed by, a great mother as they enter a gigantic cave inside her, as if into the womb. Then, she "close[s] her eyes and her large features [are] twisted in pain." The great mother labors to deliver the child, which is the new world. This image is a continuation of the idea begun in Chapter 7, that the war is somehow a way for the world and humanity to be remade.

Despite the attention paid to the whole of humanity, however, the novel circles back to Sinclair and his personal journey to self-realization. In the final pages, all the parts of Sinclair's self, which must be integrated for him to become whole, are present. First, Frank Kromer, Sinclair's shadow, is mentioned. Until now, Emil Sinclair and Max Demian have not discussed Kromer—not since Demian saved Sinclair from the bully's influence. Here, Demian informs Sinclair if he needs Demian "on account of Kromer, or something," he should listen to the voice inside himself, for Demian will not come. Accepting his shadow, then, may prove an ongoing struggle, but in this struggle, Sinclair will have guidance. Second, the integration of Sinclair's anima is complete, as Demian gives Sinclair a kiss from Mother Eve. Finally, Demian acknowledges that he is in Sinclair, and Sinclair notes that his reflection, when he looks in the mirror of his soul, is Demian. Sinclair thus acknowledges that his guide and mentor is none other than his true, whole self.

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