The Wildest Coming-of-Age Story

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Demian (1919)

Hermann Hesse

Table of Contents

Summary

My Thoughts

Recommendation


A bird from Demian by Hermann Hesse. It is a prevalent symbol in the novel.

Summary


Demian is a philosophical coming-of-age story centering around a young man named Emil Sinclair. As a young boy, Emil struggles with the concept of good and evil. He wants to live in the light and become a “good” man but finds himself surrounded by evil. This struggle spirals him into challenging his beliefs and identity. His journey is one wild ride.

My Thoughts


In the beginning, Emil is relatable. The theme of good and evil is clear to follow until Emil enters adulthood. After that point, however, Emil’s path becomes this surreal, mind-bending experience. Demian is another main character in the novel. Demian is a mysterious classmate that Emil meets early on in school. Emil becomes fascinated with Demian and his beliefs. When I first read this book back when I was 14, I thought Damien was like a god. I found his character so profound and high-standing. Now, his character reads to me like just any other angsty teen boy.


I hold the opinion that Emil falls in love with Demian in the book. But since homosexuality is seen as evil, it is the main factor that drives Emil to question his faith. It allows Demian to be the catalyst in Emil’s self-discovery. Demian’s mother, Eva, is another significant character in the story. She marks the turning point in Emil’s life where things really get surreal. Emil becomes obsessed with Eva. I think this was the only socially acceptable way Emil could express his love for Demain. In the novel, many of Eva’s features are mirrored in Demian. When these features are complimented, they are described as masculine and are present in both Demian and Eva every time. It seemed to me that Emil could not admit or express that he loved Demian outright, so that love was instead placed on Eva. I understand that this book’s ideal is to combine opposing sides into one unified force. Thus, many of the important characters in the book represent that unity. But reading this book, love is the most prominent theme I get from it.


In high school, I loved surreal, mind-bending tales. Nowadays, I find it hard to like. If the entire book were a more typical coming-of-age story, this would still be a favorite of mine. The philosophical aspect of it, however, no longer appeals to me. So as impactful and profound as this coming-of-age novel is, it can no longer be a five-star book for me.


Recommendation


Despite this book not being all that I remembered it being, it’s one I still recommend to people. For one, it’s a German classic. Two, the philosophical concept of merging two extremes into one is not in many other books. And three, it’s a very memorable book. I found myself still thinking about aspects of this book years after I read it for the first time.


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If you've read Demian before, what did you think of it? Do you know any books similar to it? Let me know in the comments!

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