Demian, written by Herman Hesse, is a story that is sometimes surreal, illusory, and perhaps even contrived; but it can very well be the journey of almost any young man, who as part of the human experience, feels alone and lost and is seeking to find himself and connect with the world, even if he feels that he has very little in common with the rest of humankind.
Demian is a coming of age story. The protagonist, Emil Sinclair, recollects a time in his life and the occurrences that led to a profound change in his worldview. He suffers plenty in that transition between a soft and sheltered childhood into adulthood. He comes from a family that is all perfect love and moral uprightness, where he feels constant protection from all external dangers.
The starting point is Sinclair, as a ten year old child who is being bullied and extorted by an eleven year old named Franz Kromer. Suddenly a rather enigmatic boy appears in Sinclair’s life. Max Demian, is one of those kids that seems to have the answer to every question, and his influence over other people is uncanny. He even gets the bully to back off of his new friend. But as it often happens, after some time, the two friends lose touch.
After several years of little contact, Sinclair and Demian meet again in a religious confirmation class. Although not spending much time together at first, their relationship starts again, prompted by a discussion on Cain and Abel. Sinclair’s religious faith begins to dissipate. Demian tells him that worshiping the God of the Bible is not enough. The Bible represents everything that is good in the world, but, Demian insists that it would be better to worship the entire world, evil parts included.
Sinclair is then sent off to a boarding school, confused and unsure of what he thinks and believes in. There he meets a new set of friends. This marks the beginning of a completely new Sinclair. From then on Sinclair is often to be found frequenting bars late at night, drinking and partying heavily. However, he refuses to have anything to do with women, because Sinclair longs for love, not sex.
One day at a Park, Sinclair sees a girl who is, for him at least, the picture of beauty. He never speaks to her, but she becomes a symbol for him, an ideal. Sinclair reforms his behavior. He stops partying and drinking with his friends. He takes up painting and paints a picture of this girl, whose name he doesn’t even know but whom he calls Beatrice.
Strolling through campus one night, Sinclair spots Demian again and the two friends are happily reunited. Demian invites Sinclair to dinner. Sinclair is happy to spend time with Max Demian and his family, and he soon becomes a regular at the Demian home. However, around that time, talk of war is common. Sinclair spends the summer with Demian’s family, further strengthening their relationship. But the war begins and Demian is drafted into the army as a lieutenant. Before Sinclair goes off to war though, some rather unexpected, perhaps even supernatural things happen between Sinclair, Demian, and his mother Eva.