Demian

by: Hermann Hesse

Chapter 1

Summary Chapter 1

The episode involving Sinclair's invention of the story about stealing the apples and Kromer's subsequent blackmailing of him presents both the dark and light sides of Sinclair. On the one hand, Sinclair wants to fit in with and impress a crowd that inhabits the world of darkness—he wants them to think that he has stolen. Yet, having grown up in the world of light, Sinclair is still very naïve—he does not realize that Kromer's threat to turn him in is empty. Sinclair did not really steal any apples, but he is too innocent to act on this fact.

Religious imagery pervades this chapter. In returning home after being blackmailed by Kromer, Sinclair ponders confessing to his father. This is meant to evoke not simply Sinclair's earthly father, but also his "heavenly father," the Christian God. Further woven through this section is the image of the Prodigal son. Sinclair fancies himself a sort of Prodigal son, having gone out and done wrong. Yet, he, unlike the Prodigal son of the Christian tradition, does not return and repent his sins. In choosing not to confess, then, Sinclair is fulfilling a desire he expresses early on in the chapter—"at times I didn't want the Prodigal son to repent."

Like many writings of the early twentieth century, Demian shows that it has been deeply influenced by psychoanalysis. First, Sinclair presents himself as having exhibited the phenomenon known as transference. When his father chastises him for having muddy shoes, Sinclair comments that he "could secretly transfer" this beratement to the serious offense about which his father did not know. Second, Sinclair's satisfaction at feeling superior to his father is an expression of the Freudian idea that sons want to rise up against their fathers—a milder form of the more celebrated Oedipus Complex. The presence of psychoanalytic features is most likely due to Hesse's own experience undergoing psychoanalysis around the same time that he was writing Demian.