Summary and Analysis
At the boarding school, Sinclair soon finds himself an outsider, as Demian was previously viewed at the Latin school. He is at first neither liked nor respected by his classmates. His adolescent awkwardness has even caused him to dislike himself. Agonizingly alone, Sinclair soon finds the road to his much needed acceptance through a friendship with Alfons Beck, the oldest boy in his boarding house. Under Beck's tutelage, Sinclair once again finds himself immersed in a dark world. He begins to frequent bars and to associate with the disorderly crowd. Rebelling against all forms of authority, he is soon in academic difficulties. His reaction to this and to everything that happens to him, even his father's admonitions, is indifference. Despite his resultant feeling of self-hatred, Sinclair revels in his degradation, enjoying a newfound reputation of being an impressive character in this world of debauchery. The only significant difference between Sinclair and his comrades is that Emil maintains his sexual innocence. Yet with his loneliness terribly acute and his expulsion from school a near certainty, Sinclair finally finds his way back to himself.
His salvation this time is self-effected. During a spring walk in a park, Sinclair observes an attractive young girl whom he names Beatrice, after Dante's first love. Although Emil never meets or talks to the young lady, he sets her upon a pedestal and worships her from afar. Beatrice is described as being tall, slender, and boyish looking. Sometimes when added to past discussions, such as Demian's feminine aspect and Sinclair's sexual innocence, young readers think that his attraction to a boyish looking girl is indicative of a latent homosexual trait. Here again, the explanation and understanding must be sought in Jung's influence on Hesse.
Jung believed that no human being was entirely masculine or feminine, but rather that all humans possess characteristics of each sex in varying degrees. The female aspect in a man's personality was labeled the anima by Jung. Correspondingly, each woman has an animus which is her masculine aspect. The anima consists of such traits as the irrational, the sensual, the intuitive, and the sensitive, which Western males have been forced to repress by society in order to develop such traits such as the mechanical, the logical, the practical, and the rational. These repressed aspects of the male, however, are not totally benign. They simmer beneath the surface somewhere in the collective unconscious, and they manifest themselves by influencing the conscious ego. Hence, a man, intuitively aware of his peculiar female aspect, sometimes projects it upon actual women, recognizing in an actual woman characteristics complementary to himself. Beatrice can therefore be considered Sinclair's anima.
The second Jungian archetype concerning the collective unconscious is the self. The self is an inner voice, which frequently manifests itself in the form of dreams which speak to and influence the conscious ego. In dream form, it usually appears as a person of the same sex as the dreamer, although it can appear as an animal or even a hermaphroditic figure. Recalling Sinclair's earlier description of Demian as combining both masculine and feminine features, or even his observation that "animals could look like that," it becomes apparent that Demian represents Sinclair's self. Thus only through the synthesis of Sinclair, Demian, and Beatrice can Sinclair be complete or fulfilled.
Sinclair realizes that in his state of degradation, he is not worthy of Beatrice, and he decides to repent of his evil ways. Consciously correcting his bad habits, he soon solves his academic difficulties and begins to enjoy better acceptance by the other students.
Still plagued by loneliness because he lacks a real friend, he finds it necessary to create new ways of occupying his time. Inspired by Beatrice, he decides to paint. His first conscious attempts to reproduce her face fail. Sinclair then gives way to his imagination and allows his brush to flow at will. In this way, the anima aspect of his unconscious manifests itself. It might be added that artistry, or creativity in an aesthetic sense such as painting, is, of course, one of those characteristics considered to be largely feminine. Sinclair himself emphasizes the "dreaming" aspect of his painting activity and likens its product to the manifestation of his subconscious mind. Finally, one day a face which intrigues Sinclair is completed. The painted countenance is stiff and mask-like, half masculine, half feminine, and yet somehow ageless. Awakening from a dream one morning, Sinclair imagines that the face seems to know him, like a mother, and calls to him. Emil, staring at the strange brightness of the forehead and the expression of the eyes, recognizes the portrait as being that of Demian. Pinning the painting to his window and allowing the sunlight to shine through it, Emil further senses that the painting is not actually of Beatrice or Demian, but rather it is a reflection of himself, his inner self, his daemon, symbolizing the essence of his whole future life.
Once again it should be emphasized that all of this activity occurs in a dreamlike state. Whether or not he actually ever pins the portrait to the window could be debated.
Thinking of his sorely missed friend, Emil reflects back upon their last meeting during one of his school vacations. Over a glass of wine, the two boys are discussing Emil's school life and his then-existent period of rebellion. Demian appears to accept but frown upon Emil's drinking habits but adds that sometimes a life of hedonism can be a type of preparation for sainthood. He cites St. Augustine as an example of this principle. As a final consolation to Sinclair, Demian adds that we are all fortunate because within us there is someone who knows all and wills all. This is an obvious reference to the subconscious; Emil, through Demian's carefully selected words, identifies with St. Augustine's example and realizes that this is the direction in which his life has gone.
On the night of the flashback, Sinclair has a terrifying dream. He remembers the coat of arms above the doorway to his house and dreams that Demian forces him to swallow it. He feels the heraldic bird coming to life within him. The bird then begins to eat away from within. Horrified, he awakens from the dream.
Once again, the central symbol of the novel becomes important. Remembering his dream, Sinclair decides to paint a picture of the heraldic bird. It should be remembered and noted, however, that as he himself previously stated, Sinclair has never really looked carefully at the details of the coat of arms, which are not readily observable anyway because it has been obscured by age and many coats of paint.
When the painting is completed, it is of a sparrow hawk with half its body enclosed in a dark globe from which it is struggling to free itself, as if hatching from an egg. The fact that the bird is identifiable as a sparrow hawk indicates that it is a grown bird, not a chick. The picture therefore is representative not of birth but of rebirth. The question arises as to why the painting took this specific form when Sinclair did not really know what the coat of arms looked like specifically. The answer concerning this most important symbol of the novel is again to be found in the influence of Jung, filtered to Hesse by his many psychoanalytic sessions with Joseph B. Lang.
Hesse has emphasized the dream aspect of the painting. The dreamlike state has also been connected to the subconscious. The term "subconscious" is a Freudian term, replaced with "unconscious" by Jung, who felt the prefix "sub" to be demeaning to what he felt was a higher form of innate awareness. According to Jung, the human mind contains two aspects of the unconscious. The first and most obvious consists of memories of actual events which have happened to the individual and have been either forgotten or repressed. The second and, in this case, most important aspect of the unconscious he termed the "collective unconscious." This concept is absolutely necessary in the discussion of Demian, as well as all of Hesse's later novels.
The "collective unconscious" does not consist of memories specific to the individual but rather consists of intuitive knowledge concerning universal human experiences, passed along in the species during the evolutionary process. In other words, there are certain symbols which convey similar intuitive meanings to all people. Such a symbol is called an "archetype." The egg (the dark globe of Sinclair's sparrow hawk painting) is such a symbol; it can be traced back to ancient Roman times when, according to the late anthropologist Bachofen, it represented the two poles of the world. Thus the sparrow hawk, breaking out of the egg to be reborn, is shattering the world of unreal, arbitrary, and false polarities — much as Sinclair himself is trying to do. Hence, the symbol is an internal one for Sinclair at this point, although at the end of the novel it will be external and universal.
In a dreamlike state, Sinclair mails this painting to Demian although he does not know his present whereabouts. To the painting Sinclair adds no message at all, not even his name.