First Advisor

Franz Langhammer

Term of Graduation

Spring 1971

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German


Foreign Languages




Hermann Hesse (1877-1962). Demian



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, iv, 49 pages)


Demian has the characteristics of a Bildungsroman and an allegory, and may be put into either classification. However, rather than squeeze the work into some literary mould and end up with an "ugly duckling," one can look upon Demian as the 40-year-old Hesse's world view presented in literary form, which in fact is the development of a life-formula, "amor fati." Demian then becomes a "beautiful swan."

The thesis is constructed in three main sections, looking at Demian from different perspectives: Demian as a Bildungsroman: Demian as an allegory; Demian as a life-formula.

The work contains the qualifications of a Bildungsroman in so far as it deals with someones leaving the carefree and innocent world of childhood, experiencing years of wandering, trial and error, and finally entering into a paradise-state of existence because of knowledge he has gleaned from life. In Demian these standards of a Bildungsroman are generally fulfilled. The hero goes through these three stages, however, in a period of only about ten years, rather than the normal life-span of a person. That the work is also limited in both plot and action helps to account for its being not an excellent model of a Bildungsroman.

Demian abounds in allegoric characteristics. Frau Eva, Pistorius, Demian and even Knauer all fulfill the common role of being a guide to Sinclair, who is himself the personification of a searching soul. Franz Kromer and Alfonse Beck, on the other hand, personify the tempter. The two worlds, the mark of Cain and Abraxas are symbolic elements in Hesse's philosophy and are not to be read only literally

That Demian can be viewed both as Bildungsroman and allegory is supported from findings in the secondary literature. What is not brought into focus through these sources, however, is the fact that Demian consists of many passages which present a philosophical view toward life. This view becomes clearer after studying Hesse's other works together with Demian--especially those written shortly before and after its publication, because it is mainly this period of the author's life which illuminates the subject of the thesis. After examining the ways in which Hesse repeatedly uses abstractions such as fate, self, soul and will, one begins to discern a pattern which can be traced to his philosophy of life. That philosophy is very amply expressed by the life-formula phrase of Nietzsche--"amor fati."


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