views updated

Hermann Hesse

Author Biography
Plot Summary
Historical Context
Critical Overview
Further Reading


Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth (1919) is a semi-autobiographical novel by German writer Hermann Hesse. Demian was published in the aftermath of World War I and grew out of Hesse's experience of psychoanalysis with Carl Jung and J. B. Lang.

The novel is set in Germany in the decade preceding World War I, roughly 1904 to 1914. Narrated by Emil Sinclair, Demian describes Sinclair's personal inward journey to a genuine understanding of his deep inner self. The character Max Demian, Sinclair's schoolmate, helps to open Sinclair's mind to unconventional ways of thinking that ultimately lead to self-discovery. Through his years of grade school, high school, and university education, Sinclair encounters several personal teachers who lead him toward a revelation of true self-knowledge. The novel ends during World War I, when both young men have been wounded in battle.

Demian applies concepts of Jungian psychoanalysis in a strongly symbolic narrative drawing from Christian theology, Nietzschean philosophy, and Eastern mysticism. Demian struck a chord with Germany's postwar youth, who felt it expressed a common search for personal identity. Hesse's novel also resonated with a generation of youth in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.

Author Biography

Hermann Hesse was born July 2, 1877, in Calw, Württemberg, Germany. Both of his parents had been missionaries in the East Indies, and the young Hesse grew up in a Protestant family characterized by piety and religious devotion based on biblical study. Hesse was also freely exposed to Eastern philosophy and religion, as his maternal grandfather studied Indian culture. Hesse attended the Protestant Theological Seminary in Maulbronn, Germany, but found it unbearable and ran away. He then attended the Gymnasium in Cannstadt, Germany, from which he was later expelled. He eventually found steady employment in a bookshop. His first novel, Peter Camenzind (1904) is about a failed writer. The book was such a popular success that Hesse could afford to leave his job and become a full-time writer. His struggles with artistic aspiration are further expressed in the novels Gertrud (1910) and Rosshalde (1914).

When Germany engaged in the conflict that became World War I (1914–1918), Hesse moved to Switzerland, from where he openly opposed the war and German nationalism. Nonetheless, he aided German soldiers by serving as editor of a journal for German prisoners of war. Between the years 1916 and 1917, Hesse went through a personal crisis as a result of illness and death in his family. His personal distress lead him to seek psychoanalysis with both Carl Jung and his disciple, J. B. Lang. The novel Demian (1919) is based on his process of self-discovery through analysis. Hesse subtitled Demian "The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth," and published it under the pseudonym Emil Sinclair. However, when the novel was granted a prize for first-time novelists, Hesse admitted to being the author and returned the prize, since this was not his first novel.

In 1919 Hesse became a permanent resident of Switzerland, obtaining Swiss citizenship in 1924. His novel Siddhartha (1922) is based on the early life of Buddha, inspired by Hesse's travels in India before World War I. Der Steppenwolf (1927; translated as Steppenwolf) is about a middle-aged man struggling with spiritual yearnings and the desire to pursue artistic creation. Das Glasperlenspiel (1943; translated as Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game) is set in the future and takes place in an elite community of highly gifted intellectuals. In 1946 Hesse was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Hesse was married three times, the first two marriages ending in divorce. He had three children from his first marriage. Hesse died of a brain hemorrhage in 1962, at the age of eighty-five.

Plot Summary

Grammar School

The story of Emil Sinclair's youth, as narrated in Demian, begins when Sinclair is ten years old and attending a grammar school in the small German town where he lives with his parents and two sisters. Sinclair describes a formative childhood experience when he lied to another child, Franz Kromer, bragging he had stolen apples from a local farmer. Although Sinclair is innocent of any crime, Kromer blackmails him by threatening to report to the police or to the farmer that Sinclair has stolen the apples. For weeks afterwards, Kromer threatens Sinclair into providing him with whatever money he can pilfer from his house, as well as other items. Sinclair's life becomes dominated by his fear of Kromer and his fear of being found guilty by his parents or other authorities. Sinclair comes to feel that he has committed a sin, and that he now belongs to the evil, or "dark," realm of the world, rather than the good, "light" realm in which he was brought up.

In the second chapter, Max Demian, a new boy in Sinclair's school who is a few years older than he, begins to take an interest in Sinclair. Demian exposes Sinclair to unconventional interpretations of their religious studies. Eventually, Sinclair indicates to Demian that Kromer has been troubling him, and Demian manages to scare Kromer into leaving Sinclair alone. Although Sinclair is relieved to be rid of Kromer, he does not thank Demian or attempt to befriend him because he is ashamed that he did not solve the problem on his own.

In the third chapter, several years have passed and Sinclair and Demian develop a friendship. Though Demian is rumored to be atheist or Jewish, he decides to attend religious confirmation classes in the same year as Sinclair. Sinclair begins to feel a bond with Demian, who sits near Sinclair in confirmation class and frequently offers unconventional interpretations of the biblical stories they are being taught. Although he is disturbed by Demian's unconventional ideas, Sinclair feels that his mind is being opened by Demian's influence, and he begins to question his religious faith. However, both boys complete their confirmation.

Boarding School

In the fourth chapter, Sinclair is sent away to a boarding school, and does not see Demian for a long time. At boarding school Sinclair is not well-liked by the other boys. He becomes depressed and filled with self-hatred. One night, when Sinclair is out walking alone, Alfons Beck, the oldest boy in the school, runs into him on the street and invites him to go for a drink. At the bar Sinclair gets drunk for the first time in his life. The next morning he is filled with self-disgust and depression, feeling that he is a complete degenerate. After this event Sinclair enters a phase of debauchery and earns a reputation at school for drunkenness and unruliness. During this time he feels that he belongs completely to the dark world of sin, and feels terrible about himself. He becomes a poor student and is on the verge of expulsion from school for his bad behavior. Although he is a "ringleader" among the rebellious students, Sinclair feels lonely and friendless. He also feels resentful toward Demian, to whom he has written twice from school, but from whom he has received no reply.

Sinclair's life changes after he encounters a young woman in a park, whom he admires from afar but never approaches. He becomes infatuated with the young woman, whom he thinks of as Beatrice, as he does not know her real name. Sinclair's feeling of worship for Beatrice has a profound affect on his life. He stops drinking and almost overnight ceases his unruly and rebellious behavior. He becomes contemplative and studious, feeling he has entered the world of light and good once again. During this period Sinclair begins to paint images from his dreams. He paints a face that appeared to him in a dream, which looks to him like both Beatrice and Demian. He later paints an image from a dream of a bird emerging from a shell, and sends the painting to Demian.

In the fifth chapter, Sinclair, still in boarding school, continues to have many symbolic dreams and to paint. He understands his desire to "try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self," but is unsure how to achieve this end. He begins to sit outside of a particular church to listen to the music of the organist within. One day the organist, whose name is Pistorius, invites Sinclair to come inside the church and listen. Pistorius then invites Sinclair back to his room, where they discuss religious and philosophical ideas. Pistorius explains that he believes in the god called Abraxas, who represents both the light and the dark elements of the world.

Sinclair spends many evenings with Pistorius, during which time he is exposed to a broad range of ideas and beliefs drawn from many different religions and philosophies throughout the world. Pistorius becomes Sinclair's role model and encourages him to find his true self through discussing his dreams and ideas. One of the younger boys in school, Knauer, seeks out Sinclair for guidance in his own path of self-development. Sinclair explains to Knauer that he must come to terms with himself on his own in order to discover his own heart. Sinclair completes another painting of a face he saw in a dream. He comes to realize that the face is an image of his own "daemon," an "ideal and intensification" of his inner self. Shortly before graduating from school Sinclair finds himself criticizing Pistorius for the first time. This conflict ends their friendship, but Sinclair realizes that the break with his "guide" is a positive step in the direction of taking his own path in life.


In the sixth chapter, Sinclair realizes that his painting representing his inner self resembles the face of Demian's mother. He becomes filled with the desire to find her, but has no idea where she lives. He enrolls in the University of H., where he is disappointed by his courses. One day he runs into Demian, whom he has not seen in years, on the street in the town where he is attending university. Demian can see that Sinclair has become more advanced in the discovery of his inner self, and the two young men discuss religion, philosophy, and the politics and society of Europe. Demian invites Sinclair home to meet his mother, Frau Eva, whom Sinclair has only seen from a distance in the past. As soon as Sinclair sees Demian's mother, he realizes that she is certainly the face from his dream. She and Demian show Sinclair that they have hung his painting of the bird emerging from its egg in their home. Sinclair spends much of his time at their house discussing his ideas with their circle of friends, who engage in a variety of open-minded ideas about philosophy, religion, and society. Sinclair develops a special relationship with Frau Eva, and they often discuss his dreams and his desire to discover his inner self.


By the final chapter, Sinclair has achieved a sense of inner peace and harmony with himself. Soon, however, World War I breaks out, and both Sinclair and Demian fight in the army. When Sinclair is injured in the war, he awakens in a hospital bed to discover that Demian, also injured, is lying in the bed next to him. The next morning Sinclair discovers that Demian has died. Sinclair realizes that Demian has always been the key to his "daemon," his true inner self.



While in boarding school, Sinclair sees a young woman from a distance, walking in the park. He becomes infatuated with the woman, to whom he never speaks. He thinks of her as Beatrice, a reference to Dante, based on a painting he has seen of the fictional Beatrice. Sinclair describes Beatrice as "tall and slender, elegantly dressed," with "a touch of exuberance and boyishness in her face." Sinclair first sees her during his period of debauchery, when he is often drunk, failing in school, and in financial debt. The sight of Beatrice, however, sparks his imagination, inspiring him to reform his drunken, rebellious ways. He states that his thoughts of Beatrice have a "profound influence" on his life, inspiring him to turn away from the "dark," sinful side of life and strive for "purity and nobility." He becomes self-reflective, and starts painting images of Beatrice. To Sinclair, the figure of Beatrice is an object of worship; he says that her image "gave me access to a holy shrine," and "transformed me into a worshiper in a temple." Eventually the image of Beatrice fades, but Sinclair continues to live out the transformation he underwent as a result of her place in his imagination.

Alfons Beck

Alfons Beck in an older boy at Sinclair's boarding school who encounters Sinclair on the street one evening and takes him to a bar, where Sinclair gets drunk for the first time in his life. After this night Sinclair enters a period of debauchery, during which time he gains a reputation for excessive drinking and raucous, rebellious behavior.

Max Demian

Max Demian is the central influence in Sinclair's personal development. Sinclair first meets Demian in grade school, when Demian encourages him to question traditional interpretations of biblical stories. Demian saves Sinclair from being tormented by Franz Kromer through means which are never revealed, although it seems as if he threatened Kromer with physical harm. When Demian enrolls in the same confirmation course with Sinclair a few years later, the two boys become friends. Demian continues to express unconventional ideas about religion, which Sinclair finds intriguing yet disturbing. After leaving his home town to attend a boarding school, Sinclair loses touch with Demian. He encounters Demian only once during his high school years, while in his drunken phase, and is embarrassed by his own behavior, which is rude and a turnoff to his childhood friend.

When Sinclair experiences a personal transformation, the image of Demian continues to haunt him, although he has completely lost touch with him. Sinclair next encounters Demian while he is attending university. The two young men immediately revive their friendship, and Demian takes Sinclair home to meet his mother.

Demian is a formative influence on Sinclair's life because he is the first person to open Sinclair's mind to a questioning of traditional values and ideas. Demian also has a strong symbolic significance, as he represents the true, deep inner self which Sinclair strives to discover. As the novel ends, Demian has died in an army hospital after being injured in combat during World War I. Sinclair, however, understands that Demian has become one with his own deep self, and now represents his "daemon," or true inner self.

Frau Eva

Frau Eva is Demian's mother. As a schoolboy, Sinclair never meets Demian's mother, although the two boys are friends. While on vacation from his boarding school, Sinclair comes across a picture of Demian's mother, and recognizes hers as a face from one of his dreams. He becomes overwhelmed with the desire to meet her, but has no idea where she and Demian are living. When he moves to a new town and enters university, Sinclair encounters Demian walking down the street, and Demian brings Sinclair home to meet his mother. Sinclair immediately recognizes Frau Eva as the image from his dream. He subsequently has many conversations with Frau Eva which help him further along the path of discovering his inner self. Frau Eva symbolizes many elements of Sinclair's search for himself, representing a mother, a lover, and a figure of the feminine element of his own psyche. Critics have interpreted the symbolic significance of Frau Eva in a variety of ways, psychoanalytically, religiously, and philosophically. Frau Eva is one of the most important elements of Sinclair's search to find his inner heart.

Dr. Follens

Dr. Follens is a young assistant professor in one of Sinclair's courses while at boarding school. In the course of one lecture, Dr. Follens mentions the ancient concept of the god Abraxas, who represents both the dark and light elements of the world. Although the professor mentions Abraxas only as an aside to his lecture, the idea sparks Sinclair's imagination, and becomes a central element of his personal belief system.


Knauer is a younger boy at Sinclair's boarding school who seeks out Sinclair in search of greater wisdom and insight. Knauer is a sort of young disciple of Sinclair, in the same manner in which Sinclair himself was a sort of disciple of Demian during his school days. Knauer expresses to Sinclair his suicidal despair, his desire for insight, and his urge to discuss deep religious and philosophical concerns. Sinclair tells Knauer that he cannot show the younger boy the way to his true inner self, that each person must discover on his own his "innermost heart" and purpose in life. Knauer clings to Sinclair, always asking questions and seeking spiritual guidance, which Sinclair insists he cannot provide. Sinclair later realizes that he had learned important lessons of his own from the questions and ideas brought to him by Knauer. Toward the end of Sinclair's stay at the boarding school, Knauer slips out of his life.

Franz Kromer

Franz Kromer is a boy in Sinclair's home town who has a significant impact on Sinclair's life when Sinclair is ten years old. Franz Kromer is a tough kid, the type with whom the sheltered Sinclair rarely played as a child. However, one day, Sinclair tries to impress Kromer by making up a story that he had stolen some apples from a local farmer. Kromer claims he knows the farmer whose apples were stolen, and threatens to hand Sinclair over to the police for his crime unless Sinclair pays him a sum of money. Over the next few weeks Kromer bullies Sinclair into stealing change from his own parents and offering other gifts to the older boy in fear of being reported for the fictional crime he had supposedly committed. Sinclair's life becomes completely dominated by Kromer's threats and demands. When Demian learns that Kromer is the source of Sinclair's troubles, he engages in an unspecified confrontation with Kromer, after which Kromer leaves Sinclair alone and never bothers him again.


Pistorius is one of the important influences on Sinclair's development. He is an organist at a church but does not himself conform to any conventional religion. Sinclair hears Pistorius's organ music while out walking, and often sits outside the church on the steps to listen to the music. Eventually Pistorius invites him into the church to listen. One evening he invites Sinclair home with him, up to his attic room, where they lie on the floor staring into the fire. Pistorius is an unconventional thinker, and exposes Sinclair to a wide range of religious and philosophical ideas. He teaches Sinclair about the god known as Abraxas, who represents both the dark and the light elements of the world. Sinclair spends many nights in discussion with Pistorius throughout the remainder of his boarding school days. Shortly before leaving school, Sinclair learns that he has outgrown his teacher; he finds himself criticizing Pistorius for the first time, an event which brings an end to their friendship.

Emil Sinclair

Emil Sinclair is the protagonist and narrator of Demian, which is subtitled, "The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth." Emil is a semi-autobiographical figure based on the youth of Hermann Hesse, and is the result of Hesse's own experience of self-exploration through psychoanalysis. Sinclair tells the story of his personal development from age ten to approximately age twenty. He is influenced in his personal journey of self-discovery by a number of people he meets during this period, most significantly Max Demian, a fellow schoolboy. Sinclair describes his major formative experiences and friendships that aid in his inward journey. Demian opens Sinclair's mind by inviting him to question traditional interpretations of biblical stories. Sinclair is discomfited but intrigued by the unconventional ideas expressed by Demian.

Sinclair attends a boarding school in his high school years, during which he goes through several distinct phases of development. In his drunken, rebellious phase he becomes an unruly and undisciplined student, with a reputation for drinking and carousing. This phase of self-loathing ends abruptly when he sees a young woman from afar, to whom he never speaks, but who he thinks of as Beatrice. She represents an image of almost religious perfection which inspires him to transform himself overnight into a sober, self-reflective, conscientious person. During this period, he begins to paint faces and images from his dreams. Sinclair's other major influence is Pistorius, a freethinker who spends many evenings with Sinclair discussing a broad range of religious and philosophical ideas.

While attending university, Sinclair encounters Demian, with whom he had lost touch, and Demian introduces him to his mother, Frau Eva. Sinclair regards Frau Eva as a dream-image representing a spiritual, psychological, and emotional ideal. He becomes part of a larger circle of open-minded, freethinking people who congregate at the home of Frau Eva and Demian. Sinclair develops a clearer sense of his inner self and his own personal identity. When World War I breaks out, Sinclair becomes a soldier. The final step in his personal development comes when he finds that Demian himself has died. He then realizes that Demian represents his own inner "daemon," or true self, and resides within his own soul.

Sinclair's Father

Sinclair's father represents the good, "light," pious world of his family. After Sinclair feels he has entered the "dark" world associated with Franz Kromer, he feels not just distant, but actually superior to his father, as if he possesses knowledge his Father does not have. When Sinclair mentions to his father Demian's alternative interpretation of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, his father immediately dismisses it as incorrect. While Sinclair is at boarding school, his father writes him many times to express disapproval of the rebellious, drunken life he is leading. At one point, his father even comes to the school to threaten Sinclair with expulsion if he does not reform his unruly ways. After Sinclair makes the transformation from his period of unruliness to his period of striving for purity, his father's letters to him at school become more congenial. Sinclair's father is a symbol of the traditional way of thinking, from which Sinclair breaks away in order to develop his own ideas and personal identity.

Sinclair's Mother

Sinclair's mother represents the good, "light," pious world of his childhood family life. After Sinclair becomes involved with the "dark" world of Franz Kromer, he feels distanced from his mother. By the end of the novel, Demian's mother, Frau Eva, comes to represent Sinclair's true spiritual mother. While Frau Eva is extremely open-minded in her ideas about religion and philosophy, Sinclair's own mother is very traditional in her beliefs.

Sinclair's Sisters

Sinclair mentions his two sisters, but makes no distinction between them and does not name them. His sisters represent the good, "light," pious world of his childhood home. After his experience with Kromer, Sinclair feels distanced from his sisters because he no longer feels a part of their world of "light" and good.


Discovering the Inner Self & Formulating a Personal Identity

The central theme of Demian is the process of discovering a deep, true, inner self. The novel opens with a statement set off from the rest of the text: "I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?" The novel then traces the difficult task of finding this true self in the face of societal pressures to conform. Sinclair encounters many obstacles in his quest for personal identity, including family, religion, and school. Demian is a significant early influence on Sinclair because he is the first person in Sinclair's life to invite a questioning attitude toward generally accepted ideas, such as the interpretation of certain biblical stories. When Sinclair is sent to boarding school, he loses touch with Demian, and, symbolically, with his inner self. He enters a phase of drunkenness in which any tendencies toward self-reflection are squelched. Only the sight of Beatrice, an idealized image of a woman he does not know, inspires Sinclair to continue on the path toward self-knowledge. By the time he has entered university Sinclair is well on his way toward a full realization of his personal identity and a full understanding of his inner self. When he meets Demian again after several years without contact, Sinclair is fully open to what Demian and Frau Eva, as well as their circle of friends, have to offer him in the way of defining his personal identity.

Topics For Further Study

  • Demian takes place during two distinct eras of German history, and was published in a third era. Research and write about the history of Germany during one of these eras: the German Empire (1871–1914); World War I (1914–1918); or the Weimar Republic (1919–1933). What was the political system in Germany during the era? What was the status of Germany's relations with other European and world nations? What major political and social issues and conflicts faced the German people during the era?
  • Hesse was strongly influenced by several authors roughly contemporary to his own life, including Thomas Mann, André Gide, and Franz Kafka. Write an essay about one of these authors. What are his major works of fiction? What central themes are addressed in his novels and stories? What similarities do you see between the fiction of this author and that of Hesse?
  • Demian was written by Hesse soon after his experience of psychoanalysis, and is based on the influence of psychoanalytic theorists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Hesse makes much use of the symbolism and imagery of dreams in Demian. Both Freud and Jung wrote extensively on the psychology of dreams and dream interpretation. Research and write about the dream theories of either Freud or Jung. What are his basic theories about the psychology of dreams? To what extent do you agree or disagree with this theory?
  • Hesse's fiction is often characterized as impressionist. German impressionism was an aesthetic movement that influenced many artistic mediums in addition to literature, including painting, film, and music. Research the major works of German impressionism in one of these three media. What are the major impressionist artists and works in this medium? How is impressionism developed in this particular medium?
  • Demian is the narrative of one young man's journey from childhood to adulthood, describing the development of his personal identity during the difficult years of adolescence. Write your own autobiographical narrative of your personal development up to this point in your life. What people or ideas have contributed to the formation of your ideas and personal identity? What struggles have you encountered in the process of becoming the person you are today? Describe the type of person you would like to be in the future. What obstacles might you encounter on the way to becoming that person?


The importance of dreams in achieving self-knowledge is a central theme throughout Demian. It is widely understood that Demian was written by Hesse to express his experience of personal insight gained through psychoanalysis. Hesse was analyzed by Lang, a disciple of Jung, who wrote extensively on the psychology of dreams. Hesse was also influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud, and Freud's theory of dream psychology. Sinclair describes powerful and recurring dreams which help him gain insight into his true inner being. In particular, his dream of a bird emerging from a shell allows him to visualize his own inner urge to break away from societal norms in order to develop a sense of personal identity.

The Artistic Impulse

An important step in Sinclair's search for personal identity is the development of his artistic temperament. Inspired by the sight of Beatrice, Sinclair begins to express images from his dreams through painting. He at first tries painting Beatrice, and later paints the image of a face he saw in a dream. Painting becomes a process of expressing his inner being through the exploration of his dream images. His paintings thus ultimately symbolize his striving for a sense of wholeness through integrating all the elements of his true inner self. Hesse often wrote about young men struggling with an artistic temperament in a society that threatened to stifle individuality and thwart creative impulses. Thus, an important element of Sinclair's personal identity is his desire to unleash his impulse toward artistic creation.


Narrative Voice

Demian is written in the first-person narrative voice. Emil Sinclair is both the narrator and the protagonist of the story. Hesse's choice of first-person narration is central to Demian, because Sinclair is describing his own inward journey toward self-knowledge and the formulation of his personal identity. Critics have noted that Demian does not have a strong or complex plot, because the novel is concerned with a process of self-reflection rather than a series of external events. It has also been noted that Sinclair's recollection of significant childhood events, powerful dreams, and internal struggles resembles the process by which a patient expresses himself to a psychoanalyst.


Demian is set in Germany during the decade preceding World War I, the early years of the twentieth century. It is interesting to note that Hesse's own youth did not coincide with these events, as he grew up during the final decades of the nineteenth century and was some forty years old at the point in history when his protagonist is about twenty years old. The setting of Demian is significant because Hesse drew a parallel between the historical transformation of Europe and the personal transformation of a youth coming of age. Toward the end of the novel Sinclair discusses the fate of Europe with Demian and his circle of free-thinking friends. He comes to feel that the impending war represents the birth pangs of a new Europe. Although Hesse was opposed to war, he felt that the war was necessary for Germany and all of Europe to be redefined. When the war begins, Demian and Sinclair are swept up in the atmosphere of excitement with which Germans first entered the war. They both become soldiers and are wounded in battle, although Demian dies and Sinclair lives. The setting of the war is significant to the novel in part because the generation of German readers—who felt that Hesse's novel spoke to their own experiences of war and their struggle for personal identity—had experienced combat directly.


Hesse makes strong use of symbolism in Demian. Sinclair describes many vivid and powerful dreams which are symbolic of his own personal struggles. A recurring symbol, which appears in his dreams and is then depicted in his painting, is that of a bird emerging from a giant egg, struggling to free itself from the shell in which it has been contained. This image symbolizes Sinclair's struggle to free himself from the emotional, religious, intellectual, and social restrictions of his family and conventional society. Sinclair sends his painting of the bird to Demian, and is moved when, years later, he finds that it hangs prominently in the house of Demian and his mother, Frau Eva. The personal freedom and self-determination symbolized by the bird's escape from the egg are realized by Sinclair in the company and the home of these two influences. Another recurring symbol is the face he sees in dreams and then paints. Sinclair recognizes the face, but his sense of who it resembles changes. At various points he sees the face as Beatrice, as Demian, and as Frau Eva. Ultimately the face symbolizes Sinclair himself, whose identity incorporates elements of the important people in his life.

Compare & Contrast

  • 1871–1918: This period of German history is known as the era of the German Empire. In 1871, the German Empire is formed, and under a newly created constitution, the empire is gov erned by an Emperor and two houses.

    1918–1933: This period of German history is known as the Weimar Republic. In the aftermath of World War I, Emperor William II is forced to abdicate. In 1918 a newly formed democratic German Republic is proclaimed, under a new constitution calling for a popularly elected president.

    1933–1945: This period of German history is known as the era of Nazi Germany or the Third Reich. Hitler rises to power in Germany when he is named chancellor in 1933. During the years of World War II (1939–1945) Hitler oversees the murder of some six million Jews (and others) in his Nazi death camps.

    1945–1949: In 1945, Germany is defeated in World War II by Allied forces and Hitler commits suicide. From 1945–1949, a defeated Germany is occupied by Allied forces.

    1949–1989: This period of German history is known as the era of partition. In 1949, Germany is divided into two nations: The German Democratic Republic (East Germany), under Soviet influence, and The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), under Allied influence. In 1961, Soviet forces construct a wall, known as the Berlin Wall, sealing East Germany off from West Germany and the Western World.

    Today: With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Berlin Wall is brought down. East and West Germany are reunified after some forty years of partition. The reunified nation is named the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • 1890–1914: During the late 1890s and early 1900s, Germany's economy becomes rapidly in dustrialized, urbanized, and successful. Germany becomes one of the major industrial nations of the world.
  • 1914–1918: During the latter years of World War I, the German economy suffers. Severe food shortages result in malnutrition and star vation of many citizens. At the war's end, returning soldiers are left jobless and without adequate food supplies.

    1918–1923: During the years following World War I, the German economy faces severe setbacks, with massive unemployment and astronomical inflation.

    Today: The reunification of East and West Germany results in economic difficulties for the nation during the 1990s. Before reunification, West Germany had enjoyed prosperity and the most favorable wage rates and labor benefits in the world; however, merging with the economically stagnant former East Germany puts a severe strain on the economy. Other costs associated with reunification continue to weigh down the German economy, although the late 1990s see some economic recovery.
  • 1914–1918: In World War I, Germany is part of the Central Powers, which include Austria-Hungary and Turkey, is at war with the six nations of the Allies, including Britain, France, and the United States. Germany is defeated by the Allies in World War I.

    1939–1945: In World War II, Germany, part of the Axis Powers, is at war with the Allies, which include Britain and the United States. Germany, the initial aggressor in World War II, is defeated by the Allies.

    Today: Germany is a member of the European Union, an organization comprised of most of the nations of Western Europe to facilitate international trade and maintain peaceful international relations throughout Europe. A single European currency is implemented to further create economic cooperation among the nations of the European Community. Germany also belongs to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Historical Context

Germany: 1871–1918

Demian is set in Germany, beginning approximately ten years before the start of World War I. The period of German history from 1871 to 1918 is known as the era of the German Empire. The German Empire was formed in 1871 from the combination of Prussia and three other German states. The government was ruled by an emperor, but also had a constitution and an elected legislative body. In Demian, Sinclair's school years are set during the reign of the emperor (also called the Kaiser) William II, which lasted from 1888 (when Hesse was ten or eleven years old) until the end of World War I (1918). William II also served as king of Prussia (the largest of Germany's five states).

Germany in World War I

World War I (also known as the Great War, or the First World War) began in 1914, when a Serbian nationalist assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The war that grew out of this conflict pitted the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) against the Allies (France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United States). The war was initially popular among German citizens, who rallied together in a rush of nationalist pride. However, as the war progressed, German citizens on the home-front suffered the consequences of severe food shortages which led to massive malnutrition as well as starvation.

The War ended in 1918 when the Central Powers suffered defeat at the hands of the Allies. The Armistice of 1918 was followed by the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–1920, during which the Treaty of Versailles was drafted and signed. The Treaty of Versailles outlined specific principles for the restructuring of relations between the nations involved in the conflict. This included the call for a restructuring of Europe to create several independent nation states from the former empires of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, and Turkey. The Treaty of Versailles also required extensive war reparations to be paid by Germany.

Germany in the Post-War Years

German soldiers returning from a war in which they were defeated came home to find widespread hunger, high unemployment rates, and outrageous rates of inflation. Over 11 million German men, about 18 percent of the population, had fought in the war effort, which resulted in some 2 million casualties. To make matters worse, a flu epidemic spread throughout Germany in the aftermath of the war. Civil discontent resulted in revolution, and in 1918 the emperor William II was forced to abdicate from the throne, making room for the formation of a new democratic German republic, unofficially known as the Weimar Republic. The Weimar Republic included a newly written constitution that called for a popularly elected president and provided women the right to vote for the first time. The Weimar Republic lasted until Adolph Hitler rose to power in 1933.

In the 1920s, during the early years of the new Weimar Republic, the German economy suffered. The Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I after German defeat, required Germany to pay enormous war reparations. In addition, Germany had gone into massive debt from wartime expenditures. The consequences of these conditions, and Germany's response to them, resulted in massive inflation in the early 1920s, reaching its peak in 1923. In that year the German mark fell rapidly by the minute, rendering the amount of a life savings almost worthless. After this point the German government initiated reforms and policy changes which allowed the economy to recover.

Critical Overview

The reception of Hesse's work by critics, both in Germany and abroad, changed over the course of several distinct phases in his life, as well as after his death. His first novel, Peter Camenzind, was popularly received by German critics and readers. However, during World War I, Hesse's move to neutral Switzerland and his public denouncement of war and German nationalism caused the German public to regard him as a traitor to his nation, resulting in the denouncement of his writing by most Germany readers and critics.

Demian was first published in 1919, within a year after the end of World War I. In an attempt to evade his declining reputation in Germany, Hesse submitted Demian under the pseudonym Sinclair (the same name as the novel's protagonist and narrator). The novel immediately struck a chord in German readers, particularly the generation of young men who fought in the war. In a 1947 introduction to Demian, German émigré novelist Thomas Mann described the impact of Demian on German readers at the time of its initial publication:

The electrifying influence exercised on a whole generation just after the First World War by Demian, from the pen of a certain mysterious Sinclair, is unforgettable. With uncanny accuracy this poetic work struck the nerve of the times and called forth grateful rapture from a whole youthful generation.

By the time Hesse publicly claimed authorship of Demian, a year after its initial publication, the groundwork was laid for a revival of his popularity as a German writer.

During the era of Nazi Germany (1933–1945), however, Hesse was again denounced as a traitor to the German people because he criticized nationalism and praised a number of prominent German-Jewish authors. However, Hesse's outstanding contribution to world literature was given international recognition when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. In the wake of World War II, with the fall of Nazi Germany and the award of the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature, Hesse enjoyed another period of renewed interest and serious critical attention on the part of German critics.

Hesse's fiction enjoyed a popular revival during the 1960s and 1970s, when his impressionistic novels stressing self-reflection and the desire to turn away from conventional religion and thought in order to achieve a sense of deep personal identity resonated with the questioning ethos of the American youth counterculture. Anna Otten explains the phenomenon of three distinct generations that raised Hesse's status to that of a "cult" figure, explaining that, for German youth after World Wars I and II, as well as for American youth during the 1960s and 1970s, "In each instance it would seem that the cults were formed of young people who, profoundly dissatisfied with the world created by their elders, set out to seek new values."

In Hermann Hesse (1978), Joseph Mileck described the universal mythical elements of Demian which account for the novel's popularity among several generations of youth in different nations at different points in history:

Sinclair's inner story emerges clear and his simple tale becomes mythic: a story of youth's timeless quest for the self, mirroring man's typological course from childhood innocence through doubt, sin, agony, and despair, to a hoped-for ultimate second innocence, his humanization … as Hesse would call it.

Discussion of Demian by literary critics often focuses on the element of Jungian psychoanalytic theory in the symbolic elements of the story. It is frequently pointed out that the characters of Demian and Frau Eva symbolize elements of Sinclair's inner psyche. Mileck, in the Dictionary ofLiterary Biography, describes the Jungian symbolism embodied by these two characters:

Demian and Frau Eva are multidimensional symbols, concepts thinly actualized. Demian is Sinclair's Socratic daimon, his admonishing inner self, but he is also a Jungian imago, Sinclair's mental image of the ideal self, and is also the reflective, culturally unconditioned alter ego Sinclair must become before he can begin to "live himself." Frau Eva is Sinclair's Jungian anima, the soul, the unconscious with which his conscious mind must establish rapport in the process of individuation, and also life in all its fullness, heaven and earth, an actualized Magna Mater, mankind's origin and destiny.

In addition to the teachings of Jung and Sigmund Freud, the influence of the philosopher Frederich Nietszche in Demian has also been discussed, as have the many biblical references, from Cain and Abel to the Prodigal Son to Jacob.


Liz Brent

Brent has a Ph.D. in American culture, specializing in film studies, from the University of Michigan. She is a freelance writer and teaches courses on the history of American cinema. In the following essay, Brent discusses the theme of religion in Demian.

Sinclair's struggles with religion, particularly Christianity, throughout Demian, are central to the development of his personal identity and individualized belief system. This process of development occurs in two distinct stages. First, Sinclair begins to question the precepts of devout Christian faith in which he was raised. Secondly, Sinclair learns to consider the spiritual wisdom of other religions and belief systems from throughout the world and throughout history. By the end of the novel, Sinclair does not completely renounce Christianity, but picks and chooses elements of various religions and philosophies—including Christianity—by which to make sense of his true nature and his experience of the world around him.

In the first phase of his journey, Sinclair learns to question traditional interpretations of Christian doctrine. He does not, however, completely renounce Christianity, as ideas, beliefs, and stories drawn from the Christian tradition continue to play a key role in his journey toward his true inner self. He does, however, learn to interpret Christian doctrine in unconventional ways.

As the novel opens, Sinclair is ten years old and his understanding of the world is firmly rooted in the Christian precepts of good and evil. The young Sinclair perceives the world as consisting of two realms: the good, light world of religious piety; and the evil, dark world of sin. The first time Sinclair experiences an inkling of religious doubt is after he tells a lie, the consequences of which result in his feeling that he has entered the dark world of evil and sin. Because he is keeping a secret from his parents, the feeling that he possesses knowledge unknown to his father results in a perception that the "holy image" he had of his father as all-powerful has been diminished. Sinclair's feelings toward his father represent his feelings about God—thus, his perception of the "holy image" of God is likewise diminished by his personal experience of the "dark" realm of sin.

Sinclair's path toward the realization of his personal identity is aided by the influence of key people who open his mind to independent thought. Demian is the first such influence, encouraging Sinclair to question traditional interpretations of biblical stories, such as Cain and Abel, the Prodigal Son, and Jacob. For example, Demian interprets the biblical story of Cain and Abel, in which Cain is a murderer of his own brother, in such a way that Cain is considered the hero of the story. Demian also provides a nontraditional interpretation of the mark that God is said to have put on Cain's forehead. Rather than being a mark of sin, Demian interprets the "mark" as a metaphor for an air of "distinction" others perceived in Cain. Demian explains that it is likely Cain had "a little more intellect and boldness in his look than people were used to." This point is significant later in the story, because Demian and his mother, Frau Eva, describe various people (and eventually Sinclair) as having "the mark"—by which they mean such people have a quality of distinction about them which suggests a desire to strive for independent thought and true self-knowledge.

Demian goes on to explain to Sinclair that he is not claiming the biblical story of Cain to be inauthentic; rather, that "Such age-old stories are always true but they aren't always properly recorded and aren't always given correct interpretations." This explanation captures the attitude toward Christianity expressed by Hesse throughout Demian: Christianity contains some age-old wisdom, valuable lessons, and meaningful iconography, but each person must look beyond conventional interpretations of religion to find his or her own personal truths.

During confirmation classes, Demian's influence on the development of Sinclair's capacity for independent thought increases through the regular questioning of the teacher's traditional approach to biblical stories. Sinclair notes that, as a result of Demian's influence, "cracks had begun to appear in my religious faith." However, Sinclair asserts that these new ideas did not cause him to question the significance of a spiritual life, but, "On the contrary, I still stood in the deepest awe of the religious." Sinclair's strong feeling for the importance of some form of spirituality, although not necessarily a conventional Christian faith, remains constant throughout the novel.

Hesse's attitude toward religion as expressed in Demian thus calls for the importance of religious questioning on the part of the individual, while also acknowledging the value of some form of understanding of oneself and the world in terms of religious ideas. Sinclair explains that Demian "had accustomed me to regard and interpret religious stories and dogma more freely, more individually, even playfully, with more imagination." This freer, individualized interpretation of the Christian doctrine in which he was raised is the first step in Sinclair's journey toward his true inner self and the formulation of his personal identity.

In the second phase of his journey toward self-knowledge and self-actualization, Sinclair learns to draw from the wisdom of many religions, cultures, thinkers, and historical eras in order to formulate his own personal belief system. By the end of the novel, Sinclair's conception of himself and the world is no longer divided into "two realms" of light and dark, but includes a perception that both elements are part of a larger whole. Sinclair's concept of a god who encompasses both realms is referred to as Abraxas.

While in a class at boarding school, Sinclair finds a note stuck in his textbook that refers to a god called "Abraxas." Although he hasn't seen Demian in years, and has no idea where to find him, Sinclair is certain that the note has come from Demian by some mysterious means. The next day, his professor, Dr. Follens, lectures to the class about the ancient concept of Abraxas as expressing a "profound philosophy." He explains that the name Abraxas "occurs in connection with Greek magical formulas and is frequently considered the name of some magician's helper such as certain uncivilized tribes believe in even at present." Dr. Follens continues, "But it appears that Abraxas has a much deeper significance." He concludes, "We may conceive of the name as that of a godhead whose symbolic task is the uniting of godly and devilish elements." Sinclair understands from the lecture that Abraxas combines both good and evil, light and dark, into one realm, and is thus "the god who was both god and devil."

Although Demian does not name the god Abraxas until years later, the ideas he expressed to Sinclair while they were still in grade school put forth a similar ideal of uniting both the "light" and "dark" elements of the world into one god, rather than separating the world of good from the world of evil. Demian argues that, in relegating part of the world to the realm of evil, "this entire slice of the world, this entire half is suppressed and hushed up." He asserts, "we ought to consider everything sacred, the entire world, not merely this artificially separated half!" Demian uses as an example the suppression of sexuality exerted through Christian teachings. His point is that the realm of life that includes sexuality should also be regarded as an element of the divine. (However, this does not mean that Demian advocates hedonism or debauchery; when Sinclair runs into Demian while on vacation during his period of drunkenness, Demian points out that excessive drinking seems to hold little spiritual or mystical value.)

The development of Sinclair's personal belief system is furthered by his exposure to a broad range of unconventional ideas as presented to him by key people in his life. Sinclair's friendship with Pistorius during his final year at boarding school further opens his mind to a wide range of religious and philosophical ideas. Rather than conforming to traditional Christian beliefs, Pistorius teaches Sinclair to consider Eastern religious beliefs, as well as philosophical ideas such as that of Frederich Nietzsche, and even scientific theories. Pistorius also exposes Sinclair to further exploration of the concept of Abraxas. Like Sinclair, Pistorius was raised in a deeply religious household, and yet has chosen not to follow the traditional practice of Christianity. Instead, he draws from a variety of sources of wisdom and mystical enlightenment to formulate his own understanding of the spiritual element of the world. Sinclair is further exposed to a broad range of unconventional religious and philosophical ideas toward the end of the novel, when he becomes part of the social circle of freethinkers who gather at the home of Demian and Frau Eva.

In Demian, Hesse ultimately does not renounce Christianity, but suggests the possibility of combining the beliefs and ideas of many different cultures, religions, and thinkers in order to formulate a personal understanding of oneself and the world. At one point in the novel, Pistorius comments that, although he is no longer faithful to the Christian church, "I'm still interested to see what kinds of gods people have devised for themselves." Hesse's message about religion in Demian may be summed up as the following: each individual must "devise" his or her own set of religious or spiritual ideas; this should come about a result of much self-reflection, or soul-searching, as well as contemplation of many forms of spiritual wisdom from throughout history and culture; and no one set of beliefs is necessarily meaningful to any given individual. Hesse seems to be calling for a sort of religion of the individual, which draws freely from the wisdom of the ages throughout the world and is constructed by each person in accordance with "the promptings of [his] true self."

Source: Liz Brent, Critical Essay on Demian, in Novels for Students, The Gale Group, 2002.

Eugene L. Stelzig

In the following excerpt, Stelzig considers the Jungian context of Hesse's Demian.

What Do I Read Next?

  • The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) is the seminal text on dream theory by Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Hesse was familiar with the theories of Freud and considered him a strong influence.
  • Dreams (1974) is a selection of writings about dreams by Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychoanalytic theory. Hesse was a psychoanalytic patient of Jung, and Demian was written in part as an expression of the effect Jung had on him.
  • The Magic Mountain (1924) is one of the best-known novels by Thomas Mann, a friend and fellow German writer to Hesse. The Magic Mountain is about a young man's experiences in a tuberculosis sanitarium in the mountains.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque, is a now-classic narrative based on the experiences of a German soldier in World War I.
  • The Complete Stories (1983) of Franz Kafka includes many masterpieces by an author whom Hesse regarded as one of his major influences. Some of Kafka's most celebrated stories include "Metamorphosis" and "The Hunger Artist."
  • Siddhartha (1922) is one of Hesse's most celebrated novels. It tells the story of the early life of Buddha.
  • Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game (1943) is one of Hesse's most celebrated novels. It takes place in the future in an elite community of intellectuals and scholars.
  • In The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse (1995), the author combines elements of Eastern religion and European folktales to create original stories relevant to the modern world.
  • German Expressionism (1997), edited by Stephanie Barron and Wolf-Dieter Dube, provides images of German expressionist paintings as well as discussion of German expressionism in drama, music, film, and architecture.
  • The German Empire, 1870–1918 (2000), by Michael Stümer, offers a social and political history of Germany during the era of the German Empire.

[Text Not Available]

[Text Not Available]

[Text Not Available]

[Text Not Available]

[Text Not Available]

[Text Not Available]

[Text Not Available]

Source: Eugene L. Stelzig, "Chapter VI: Hesse's Marriage of Heaven and Hell," in Herman Hesse's Fictions of the Self, Princeton University Press, 1988, pp. 130-58.

Ernst Rose

In the following excerpt, Rose examines the protagonist's search for his integrated self in Hesse's Demian.

The events and characters in Demian are symbolic experiences of the soldier Emil Sinclair who is searching for his integrated self. Sinclair, unlike his artistic predecessors, no longer wants to escape, but strives to accept life. He tries "to give life to that which wanted to come out of me by its own force." In his quest for his self he first returns to his childhood. Soon its protecting warmth is destroyed by the discovery of an outside world of violence and danger under the influence of Franz Kromer, a boy from the other side of the tracks. Sinclair himself for a while shares in Kromer's values and becomes a petty thief.

From this situation Sinclair is rescued by Demian, an older and more mature schoolmate. (The name is a distortion of the Greek Daimon, "demon," also "fate" and "conscience," and was found by Hesse in a dream.) While Kromer is actually introduced as Sinclair's base "shadow", Demian is his psychopompos and can set the negative forces into their proper perspective. He frees Sinclair from his shadow and becomes his intimate friend. Sinclair learns to appreciate the strong mentality of Demian, who is capable of thought transference and whose own thoughts go far beyond the platitudes of his teachers and his pastor. After a confirmation class Demian submits a spirited plea in favor of Cain. According to him, Cain did not commit murder but was blackballed because of his independent mind. This suggests a study of the Gnostic sects who worshipped the creative force, which they named Abraxas.

Demian uses this concept of Abraxas to instill in Sinclair an awareness of evil as a constituent part of the world and not as a mere outside force. We are all marked men like Cain, claims Demian, and Sinclair should therefore accept evil and no longer indulge in self-righteousness. He should no longer be afraid of the invisible divinity beyond bourgeois good and evil.

Sinclair first had to give up childlike innocence. Then he passed through a period where he could hope to become saved by a fixed system of moral values. He had to learn that there is no such salvation, as the good in man is inextricably intertwined with the evil. Now he must reach the third stage where he accepts God who is sending both good and evil and yet is meaningful in his own, inscrutable way.

The path to such an acceptance is beset with pitfalls. Sinclair revolts against Demian and for a while becomes a wastrel. But then he confronts his deeper and purer self in the figure of a lovely girl whom he never meets in person. This "Beatrice," as he calls her, saves him from the loss of his artistic abilities. He turns from his wasteful habits and begins to sketch her. As he draws, he recognizes himself in her and is able to design a better image of his self.

Another of Sinclair's pictures is that of a sparrow hawk breaking out of its shell. (At this point it should be remembered that Jungian practice encourages the patient to draw pictures in order to make him face his subconscious images.) Sinclair has reproduced this particular picture from memory, and it copies an escutcheon over the door of his parents' home to which Demian has once called his attention. In an unexplained manner Demian had inserted a note into Sinclair's notebook: "The bird is fighting to break the egg. The egg is the world. He who wants to be born, must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The God's name is Abraxas."

In his "flight" toward Abraxas, Sinclair meets a second guide in the person of the organist Pistorius, whose acquaintance he has made in a tavern where Pistorius is drinking to forget his sorrow at being an outcast and a seer. Pistorius encourages Sinclair in his restless pursuit of his true self, and the latter learns his lesson well. He now draws a picture of a woman he has seen in his dreams. The painting assumes the features of Sinclair's mother, but again, she actually represents his deepest un-conscious, with which Sinclair must identify himself. Significantly, after Sinclair's evocation of his dream image Pistorius can no longer help his charge and drops out of the picture. He has represented the psychoanalytic physician whom the patient must finally reject, in order to become independent and be cured.

The cure is symbolized by Sinclair's meeting with Demian's mother. In a university town he again comes across Demian, who takes his friend home to his mother. Gossip has her living in incest with her son—a poetic transcription of her true character as a part of a mandala. The trio is united in the vision of a new Europe, a future world in which people who have forged their true personalities will emerge as leaders of a new humanity. Sinclair regrets only that he cannot win Frau Eva for himself. She tells him that she will come to him when his want of her is strong enough to draw her to him.

One night Sinclair marshals all his strength to call her. But instead, Demian enters with the news that the first world war has broken out. The two young men become soldiers, because as such they can help to sweep away the insincere bourgeois world and put the dynamic civilization of the future in its place. Since they move under the sign of Abraxas, the new world will of course not be traditionally humanistic.

The two friends are separated by the war and for the last time find each other again side by side in a hospital. Demian dies from his wounds, but before his death gives Sinclair a last kiss from Mother Eve, i.e., Sinclair becomes united with his real self. The latter looks into his soul and sees his "own image that now is entirely the likeness of him, my friend and mentor."

The basic theme of the book is the emergence of Sinclair's integrated self from his earlier schizoid separation into Demian and the conventional Sinclair. To be sure, the ultimate integration—the union with Demian's mother—is never attained. But it is at least visualized.

Source: Ernst Rose, "Chapter 5: The End of an Era," in Eaith from the Abyss: Herman Hesse's Way from Romanticism to Modernity, New York University Press, 1965, pp. 45-56.


Mann, Thomas, "Introduction," in Demian, by Hermann Hesse, Harper & Row Publishers, 1965, pp. ix-x.

Mileck, Joseph, "Hermann Hesse," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 66: German Fiction Writers, 1885–1913, edited by James Hardin, Gale Research, 1988, pp. 180-224.

―――――――,Hermann Hesse: Life and Art, University of California Press, 1978, p. 99.

Otten, Anna, ed., Hesse Companion, University of New Mexico Press, 1977, p. xii.

Further Reading

Berghahn, V. R., Imperial Germany, 1871–1914, Berghahn Books, 1994.

Berghahn provides a history of the German empire, from its formation in 1871 until the beginning of World War I.

Hesse, Hermann, Soul of the Age: Selected Letters of Hermann Hesse, 1891–1962, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991.

Soul of the Age is an edited selection of the letters of Hesse, including his correspondence with such notables as the writers Thomas Mann and André Gide, and modern Jewish philosopher Martin Buber.

Marrer-Tising, Carlee, The Reception of Hermann Hesse by the Youth in the United States: A Thematic Analysis, P. Lang, 1982.

Marrer-Tising offers discussion of the popularity of Hesse's novels among American youth during the 1960s and 1970s. Marrer-Tising explores thematic elements of Hesse's fiction which addressed ideas and concerns of the youth counterculture during this era of U.S. history.

Michels, Volker, ed., Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial Biography, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975.

Michels provides photographs and other visual materials in conjunction with biographical discussion of Hesse's life and career.

Moyer, Laurence, Victory Must Be Ours: Germany in the Great War, 1914–1918, Hippocrene Books, 1995.

Moyer provides a history of Germany during World War I.

Richards, David G., The Hero's Quest for the Self: An Archetypal Approach to Hesse's "Demian" and Other Novels, University Press of America, 1987.

Richards discusses Hesse's fiction in terms of its mythological elements.

Serrano, Miguel, C. G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships, Daimon Verlag, 1997.

Serrano offers discussion of the ongoing friendship between Hesse and the great psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung.

Tusken, Lewis W., Understanding Hermann Hesse: The Man, His Myth, His Metaphor, University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Tusken provides analysis of the works of Hesse in terms of recurring thematic, symbolic, and psychological elements.