Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Emil Sinclair

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

Max Demian, an older student and Sinclair’s friend and...

(The entire section is 693 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Sinclair, the narrator-hero of Demian, represents a largely autobiographical figure. Both the setting and the school experiences reflect Hesse’s youth in Calw, his native town, located near Germany’s Black Forest. The character of Pistorius is based upon the Swiss psychologist Dr. J.B. Lang, who treated Hesse and introduced him to Carl Gustav Jung’s psychoanalytic theories.

Sinclair struggles to achieve his own individual identity, described metaphorically as a path or way to meaning in life. He feels compelled to break out of his conventional background and establish his independence, even though he realizes that the way or path never ends, that stasis can never be achieved. For his understanding of himself, he draws upon symbols, dreams, an evolutionary perspective, and insights provided by other characters. Sinclair is depicted as vulnerable, sensitive, and intelligent.

Other characters are less clearly drawn; indeed, they often seem to be shadowy abstractions existing primarily to contribute to the hero’s growth and development. Among them, only Demian appears throughout most of the novel. Older and more mature than Sinclair, he becomes a kind of model and a source of encouragement; as Theodore Ziolkowski notes, he represents a Christ figure. Demian possesses a magnetic personality, strong independence, and insights beyond his years. Something of a mystery to others and usually aloof, he can interpret symbols and dreams.

Franz Kromer is portrayed as a clever and cunning opportunist willing to take advantage of weaker boys such as Sinclair. Pistorius, the theologian-organist, contributes to Sinclair’s development by explaining symbols and dreams to him, yet because he is oriented toward the past, he is unable to find his own way.

Demian’s mother, Frau Eva, clearly demonstrates the subordination of characters to the protagonist’s development. A wealthy middle-aged widow, she treats her son more like a friend than a child. Endowed with warmth and dignity, she is cultured, profoundly learned, and intuitive. In her romantic outlook, she emphasizes the mutual attraction of human beings, yet Sinclair never approaches her too closely. In his dreams and fantasies, he transforms her into an earth goddess, a mother of mankind like Eve, and a Platonic love ideal. As his earlier idealistic image of Beatrice had, his love for Frau Eva contributes to his emotional development and powerfully influences his behavior. In his evolutionary view as applied to mankind, she becomes a symbol of rebirth and renewal.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The cast of characters in this novel is a small one. There are a few minor characters, who perform essential actions to advance the plot. The...

(The entire section is 555 words.)