Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Demian has as its dominant theme the development of the individual from dependency to independence, from innocence to understanding and acceptance. Hesse’s views on human development encompass a wide range of earlier psychology and philosophy. The Romantic individualism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Novalis, the primacy of will as envisioned by Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Neitzsche, neo-Darwinism, and the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud and Jung are among many sources influencing the novel’s perspective.

In order to explain Sinclair’s painting of the sparrow hawk, fully mature, emerging from a sphere as if from an egg, Demian wrote the following: “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God’s name is Abraxas.” George Wallace Field has shown that the passage reflects Jung’s psychology of symbols, but it also represents a cryptic index to the novel’s main themes. The bird represents both the individual and mankind in general. The individual discovers his identity only by breaking ties to his past. In doing so, he experiences sorrow and guilt, which can be dealt with successfully only through dreams, myths, and symbols such as the god Abraxas, who combines or synthesizes good and evil and represents a symbol of Nietzsche’s conception of an existence beyond good and evil.

To project idealized dream visions upon...

(The entire section is 437 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A central theme of all of Hesse's novels is the necessity of life experience in the quest for an authentic selfhood (one might call it a...

(The entire section is 597 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Discovering the Inner Self & Formulating a Personal Identity The central theme of Demian is the process of discovering a deep,...

(The entire section is 509 words.)