Emil Sinclair, the protagonist and author-narrator, who looks back on his youth. At the beginning of the story, he is about ten years old; he is about eighteen at its close. He is the son of well-to-do parents. From a sheltered and bright childhood world, Sinclair is first plunged into a world that he had hitherto regarded as separate from his, the world of the lower classes, surrounded by darkness and mystery. He had bragged about having stolen apples to impress an older fellow student, Franz Kromer; Kromer blackmails and otherwise harasses him. When Sinclair meets Max Demian, another older student, his life changes once again, as Demian protects him and forces Kromer to leave Sinclair alone. Sinclair’s growing pains, trials, and tribulations are accompanied by Demian’s role as a mentor and friend. They recognize each other by the “mark of Cain” on their foreheads, which, though invisible, is the sign of a nonconformist, of one who believes in the human race as one that is yet to come. Demian gradually leads Sinclair to this visionary insight, which draws a line between himself and the “masses” who are driven by a herdlike instinct. Sinclair’s path toward acceptance of what fate has in store for him is one of self-exploration, including the freedom to become what he is. He later encounters Demian again and, for the first time, meets Eva, Demian’s mother. When Sinclair sees Demian for the last time, Demian has been mortally wounded in battle. After Demian’s death, Sinclair’s introspection reveals that his and Demian’s images have merged into one.
Max Demian, an older student and Sinclair’s friend and mentor. He is a born leader and intellectual. His friendship with the younger Sinclair is based on a kinship of spirit and mind. He introduces Sinclair to a world of inner freedom and natural courage. Sinclair sends him a drawing of a bird (a sparrow hawk) as it breaks out of its shell, represented by a globe. Demian displays the picture prominently in his mother’s house. Demian is a lieutenant in the army and one of the first to go to the front. There, having been mortally wounded, he comes to be in the same field hospital as Sinclair. He declares Sinclair independent of his leadership, as Sinclair will find that he has by now internalized Demian’s own image and potential.
Pistorius, an organist and former theology student, Sinclair’s other mentor. He is stocky and short, with a face that is both “stern around the forehead and eyes and soft around the mouth.” Pistorius becomes Sinclair’s mentor in the town where Sinclair is attending boarding school. Pistorius, interested in myths and cults and their celebration, introduces Sinclair to the Abraxas myth.
Frau Eva, Demian’s mother. She is tall, beautiful, and dignified. She tells Sinclair to call her Frau Eva, a privilege granted to her closest friends. Her head and face suggest both male and female qualities. She is the object of Sinclair’s worldly and spiritual dreams and fantasies. Her world is one of love, fairy tales, and dreams. She is the driving force behind the group around Demian that seeks the spiritual rebirth of humankind.
Franz Kromer, a thirteen-year-old boy in Sinclair’s hometown. He is robust and strong, the son of a tailor. He attends public elementary school and is, on occasion, associated with the children of the Latin School. He is given to cruelty, exploiting the inexperience of some of the sheltered younger boys of the upper-middle class of the town. Thus, he comes into contact with Sinclair and blackmails him by threatening to expose him for something about which Sinclair has merely boasted. After Demian’s intervention, Kromer comes to fear Sinclair and avoids any further contact with him.
Knauer (NOW -uhr), a slight, slender, eighteen-year-old. He is Sinclair’s classmate in the boarding school and seeks his advice and friendship. He is sexually abstinent and...
(The entire section is 1,647 words.)