Demian | Study Guide

Hermann Hesse

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Demian | Quotes


The life of everyone is a way to himself, the search for a road, the indication of a path.

Emil Sinclair, The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth

Emil Sinclair begins the novel by introducing its premise. He is going to relate events from his life, focusing on those that provided a "way to himself." His search for himself, for the whole self, forms the overall plot of the novel.


Two worlds passed there one through the other. From two poles came forth day and night.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 1

Sinclair's childhood observation is that two worlds exist and intersect. One is the light, bright world of his parents, traditional morality, and order. The other is a dark world of immorality, scandal, and wickedness. One of Sinclair's tasks on his journey to self-realization is to set this childhood view aside and integrate his two worlds into one.


For the first time I tasted death, and death tasted bitter, for it is birth, with the terror and fear of a formidable renewal.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 1

The first of Emil Sinclair's significant formative experiences is telling an elaborate lie and then being blackmailed by Frank Kromer because of it. This event is Sinclair's first entry into the dark world, which he describes here as a taste of death. This experience helps not only to break apart his childhood understanding of the world but also to set the stage for a new understanding. Thus, although the childhood perspective and identity die, a new one is born.


The whole affair would have been looked upon as a sort of backsliding, whereas it was really the work of destiny.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 2

Sinclair's first major transgression of his parents' moral code—the lie and its results—not only makes him miserable but also separates him from his family in a variety of ways. He feels as though they will not understand what has happened, considering it sinning or "backsliding" instead of seeing it as progress toward his destiny of self-realization.


Alas, I know ... nothing in the world is so distasteful to man as to go the way which leads him to himself!

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 2

Even though self-realization is Sinclair's goal, it is not an easy process. On several occasions he remarks that it is agonizing and terribly difficult. This is why, after his first major breakthrough on this journey, he retreats for a time into his childhood mentality.


For that reason I will speak ... only ... what impelled me forward enabling me to throw off my shackles.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 3

Demian is the story of Emil Sinclair's journey toward self-realization, or what Carl Jung calls individuation. Here, however, Sinclair characterizes the journey as throwing off shackles, becoming free. This way of characterizing self-realization is informed more by Friedrich Nietzsche, whose concepts of the free spirit and the Superman both involve a person becoming free of the old moral code and old perspective. Throughout the novel Sinclair blends the ideas of Jung and Nietzsche.


I think we should reverence everything and look upon the whole world as sacred, not merely this artificially separated, official half of it!

Max Demian, Chapter 3

Max Demian helps Emil Sinclair develop a new perspective of the world. He acknowledges that the world seems divided into two parts—the things people think are good and the things people call evil. Although this perspective is similar to Sinclair's observation of the "two worlds," Demian suggests the world is not two halves, but one whole. This idea provides a way for Sinclair to view the world, and himself, in a new light. He can begin to worship the totality of his own experience, not merely the parts his parents or the church would call good.


I ... began simply to paint a face according to the guidance of my imagination, a face ... I had dreamed of.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 4

As Emil Sinclair becomes more attuned to his inner voice, he often accesses it through dreams and through painting—often painting his dreams or dreaming about something he has painted. In this case, he begins by attempting to paint a girl he met, whom he calls Beatrice, though this is not her real name. Unsuccessful in making the painting resemble the real girl, he continues painting and a face emerges. Based on his dreams and his imagination, it becomes an important figure in his self-realization.


The picture did not resemble me ... but ... seemed to be ... something of my inner self, of my fate or of my daemon.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 4

The painting that emerges from Emil Sinclair's dream and imagination has something familiar about it. At first Sinclair thinks it looks a bit like Max Demian, then a little like himself, though it is still primarily a feminine figure. According to Carl Jung's way of thinking about the self, all men have a feminine aspect, the anima, and the work of self-realization or individuation is partly to recognize and integrate the anima into the conscious self. This painting can be seen as the image of Sinclair's anima, or a painting of Sinclair's self that includes the anima. He also calls the painting's image his fate and his daemon. To Sinclair, the idea of fate is interchangeable with the idea of self. The daemon, or guide, is also part of the self.


The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever will be born must destroy a world.

Max Demian, Chapter 5

One of Emil Sinclair's paintings is of a hawk struggling to hatch out of a large egg-like orb. Guided by his intuition, Sinclair sends the painting to Max Demian. Shortly after, he finds a piece of paper in a book with this interpretation of the painting. He believes the message comes from Demian.

The symbolism of the hawk fighting to be hatched, destroying the egg that was once its world, appears throughout the novel. It symbolizes primarily the process of self-realization in which a person destroys their old identity and understanding of the world to be born anew. Late in the novel, the symbol is tied to the rebirth of the whole world.


The embrace seemed repulsive to my sentiment of reverence, yet I felt happy.

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 5

In Emil Sinclair's most significant dream, he is greeted by a sensual woman who looks like his mother but who then changes to resemble the figure in his painting. The feminine figure embraces him, and he has a flood of conflicting emotions. He feels repulsed yet happy; he longs for her touch yet feels guilty about it. This dream illustrates how, in the system conceived by Carl Jung, dreams help people in the process of self-realization. The dream shows Sinclair his anima, that feminine part of himself he must embrace, or integrate, to achieve individuation. Jung also believed incest dreams, for men, were a reflection of the self's desire for wholeness. The appearance of Sinclair's mother at the beginning of the dream suggests his self's desire for wholeness has led him to face his anima.


When we hate a man, we hate in him something which resides in us ourselves.

Pistorius, Chapter 6

Pistorius teaches Emil Sinclair much about dreams and about self-realization. He tells Sinclair a dream about murdering another person can be interpreted as a dream about the self. The person murdered in the dream is the personification of a part of the self one hates. In life, too, people hate or fear a person who has the qualities of the part of their self they hate or fear. This part of the self, in Carl Jung's terms, is the shadow.


Everywhere this huddling together ... this flight into the warm proximity of the herd!

Emil Sinclair, Chapter 7

Emil Sinclair's assessment of his fellow university students' behavior is influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche's idea of the herd. Nietzsche believed people formed groups and conformed to a herd morality based on communal values such as consideration and moderation. He saw this conformity as a weakness. Sinclair notes here the herd provides comfort, but it is a flight or retreat from the better way—self-realization.


Community ... will arise anew from the mutual understanding of individuals, and after a time the world will be remodeled.

Max Demian, Chapter 7

This idea again leans heavily on ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Jung. Jung believed the process of individuation had a goal of producing individuals. The idea that "after a time the world will be remodeled" reflects Nietzsche's concept of the Superman. The Superman has broken free of the moral code of the world and lives according to his own values. He represents and helps bring about the future of humanity.


You must hearken to the voice inside you, then you will notice it is I, that I am in you.

Max Demian, Chapter 8

At the end of the novel, Max Demian acknowledges he is both Emil Sinclair's guide and self. The integration of Demian into Sinclair is a big step in Sinclair's self-realization. Sinclair has moved from needing an external guide to being able to follow the guidance of his inner voice.

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