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Literature Study GuidesDemianThe Story Of Emil Sinclairs Youth Summary

Demian | Study Guide

Hermann Hesse

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Demian | The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth | Summary



Addressing the reader, Emil Sinclair, the mature narrator, claims he needs to begin far back in time. His story is unique, he states, because it is his own personal story, not the story of a fictionalized person. It is the story of a "real, unique, living man." He then notes the difficulty of settling the question of what a "real living man" is. Men today are shot down in great numbers, he mentions, and if these men were no more than mere individuals, easily eliminated, stories would have no point. However, "every person is more than himself." Men are the point at which the "world's phenomena converge, in a certain manner, never again to be repeated." Therefore, everyone is worthy of attention.

Sinclair stresses he is not a person who has knowledge. Rather, he was and still is a seeker—a listener to the promptings inside himself. He claims his story will not be pleasant like fictional stories. It will be full of "nonsense and perplexity, of madness and dreams."

He calls life a way to the self, though noting each person carries the "slime and eggshells" of the primeval along with them. All come from the same place—the mother's womb. However, all persons are unique and can explain only themselves.


Hermann Hesse originally released this novel under the pseudonym Emil Sinclair, so this introduction can be read as an author's note of sorts. It justifies writing a book about oneself: all people share a common humanity, and each person is both unique, with their own story to tell, and part of something larger.

Furthermore, Hesse/Sinclair defends the worth of stories in general. He notes that although it might seem as though human beings are insignificant, given the pervasiveness of death, they are actually important. They are the point at which the "world's phenomena converge, in a certain manner, never again to be repeated." Each person's worth is drawn from being part of this convergence. Therefore, one person's story can be significant, for individuals are not individuals alone but part of something of great importance in the world—humanity. This defense of the importance of humanity is prompted by the extensive loss of life during World War I. Hesse counters the idea that human beings are nothing but expendable, separate individuals. In doing so he offers a rationale for the value of his own personal story. It is unique, coming from one person's experience. It is important because it is part of the story of humanity.

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