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Demian

Hermann Hesse

Chapter 6

Chapter 5

Chapter 7

Summary

Sinclair reflects on his personality at the time of his interaction with Pistorius. Isolated from his peers, he nevertheless engages in a time of growth and self-discovery. Pistorius becomes a type of encouraging role model, who always listens to what Sinclair has to say and who tries to help him further scrutinize his thoughts. Together, they "worship" Abraxas and discuss dreams, desires, and the world. Pistorius tells Sinclair that he "can't consider prohibited anything that the soul desires." Sinclair, still not convinced of this, counters Pistorius's assertion, saying that, for instance, one must not kill someone simply because one doesn't like the person. Pistorius responds that even this, under certain circumstances is acceptable. Sinclair is struck by the kinship between this statement and the things Demian has said to him.

Walking home one evening, Sinclair is approached by Knauer, one of his classmates. Knauer speaks to Sinclair of certain spiritual exercises that he performs. Knauer reveals that he is celibate and he insists that in order to live a spiritual life, one must remain celibate. Knauer admits that he thinks about sex and this makes remaining celibate all the more difficult. He confesses that he needs help—he is having a hard time suppressing his desires. Sinclair says that the only advice he can offer is that Knauer ought to learn to accept who he is and to act so as to fulfill his desires. Knauer throws a fit, telling Sinclair that he is a pig.

Sinclair returns to his room, absorbed in his dream of the sparrow, his mother, and the woman who looks like Demian. He paints another painting of the woman and notices now that the woman also has some features that resemble Sinclair himself. Sinclair's inner world becomes violent. He reacts very strongly to the painting. Unable to sleep, he takes a bath in the middle of the night and goes for a walk. Meandering about, he ends up in an alleyway. He sees Knauer, who wonders how he has gotten there. Knauer confesses that he was about to kill himself.

Sinclair's last few weeks at school are spent with Pistorius. He gains answers to all of his questions by concentrating intently on the ideal woman of his picture. Knauer begins to attach himself to Sinclair and to follow him around, but eventually they fall out of touch.

Sinclair begins to realize Pistorius's limitations. He no longer sees him as an immensely wise man, a mentor on which to model himself. Sinclair begins to feel like much of what Pistorius tells him is not very relevant. He feels like Pistorius is giving him a dull, impersonal history, not a lively, personal experience. He says as much to Pistorius and chides him for being "antiquarian."

Pistorius takes Sinclair's criticism very personally. It seems to deflate Pistorius. Their interactions become irremediably altered. In a later conversation, Pistorius acknowledges his limitations—that he is not the man who can actualize the ideas they have been discussing, a man who can bring Abraxas to the world. Sinclair feels as though he has lost a "guide" and is unsure of how to proceed. It is decided that he will enter the university after vacation and begin with the study of philosophy.

Analysis

The notion of killing someone comes up often in the novel but it is especially notable at the beginning of this chapter in connection with a conversation between Sinclair and Pistorius. Murder is generally seen as the most wrong action one can commit. So, it makes sense that this example would be used, to make clear just how radical the position Pistorius (in this chapter) or Demian (in other chapters) is arguing. This motif appears a number of times in the novel, first in the introductory chapter when Sinclair suggests to Demian that Kromer must be stopped even if it means killing him.

The fact that Sinclair's latest painting of his dream woman partially resembles him is highly symbolic—a further indication of Sinclair's development. Since the earlier painting of this woman did not resemble him, we can tell that in the interim, he has become more like this woman. This woman, however, represents his ideal, all-encompassing woman. This picture, then, signifies that Sinclair is moving closer to this ideal—so close, in fact, that some of his features are recognizable as these ideal features.

Sinclair's relationship with Knauer is an interesting literary construction. Throughout the Novel, Sinclair finds himself in the position of seeking somebody else's guidance. Demian and Pistorius, and to a lesser extent, Frau Eva and Beck serve as mentors to Demian. Knauer wants Sinclair to be his mentor. He seeks out Sinclair's guidance and help. Further, when Knauer contemplates suicide, he calls Sinclair. Though Sinclair does not recognize it, he is brought to Knauer in much the same way that Demian or Pistorius is often brought to him when he needs one of them. This episode gives us a chance to see what Sinclair is like in a different role. It also underscores his immaturity at this point—he does not do a particularly good job of mentoring Knauer. This also shows him as a particularly selfish person—he takes very little interest in helping Knauer in the way that Demian and Pistorius have helped him.

Some imagery in this chapter is worth noting. After Sinclair has levied his attack on Pistorius, they sit around "in front of a dying fire." The fire is dying, just as their relationship is dying. Pistorius's name is symbolic in itself. "Pistorius" sounds like an ancient Greek name. Sinclair discovers that Pistorius can only teach him about the past, but cannot come up with anything original. His name, as opposed to the more modern sounding "Demian", emphasizes the limitations of Pistorius's capabilities.

At the end of the chapter, Sinclair writes that he "cannot take another step alone." He contemplates sending this message to Demian but decides against it. This reflects a high degree of uncertainty on Sinclair's part. After all, why write this thought down so succinctly if one does not intend to send it? Sinclair is both scared to be on his own and scared to admit to Demian that he is scared to be on his own.

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