• Ma. Alejandra Peñalba

An Idea on Herman Hesse’s Demian

“All I wanted to do was try to live the life that was inside of me, trying to get out. Why was that so hard?”


This is the opening phrase of Herman Hesse’s book Demian. Published in 1919, Demian was written through young German Emil Sinclair’s perspective, focusing on a self-realization journey; it is“the story of Emil Sinclair’s youth”, the novel writes. The writing took a particular complex perspective, yet was written in simple sentences that carried so much meaning. The ideas expressed in Demian are about growing oneself; it gives importance to improving oneself by stripping away from the comfort zone and embracing one’s doubts. It holds up the idea of acting along and taking the part of the fool in order to grow through experience.

(Penguin Classics book cover for Demian)


In school, Emil meets this new kid who looks unusually older and mature, Demian. For Emil, Demian takes on the role of a guide, provoking and stimulating new thoughts on Emil and ultimately making him more mindfully independent. Through Demian, he realizes that there is a life inside of him, trying to get out. This idea emphasizes the significance of finding liberty in order to diminish the suffering one causes upon oneself. By not letting the life inside of oneself live, one is doomed to an existence full of missed opportunities, restrained communication, isolation, wasted potential, and inevitably becomes consumed by stagnation. Only by facing this suffering will one become stronger, and then forth, allow the life inside to get out. Only this way will one actually live as he or she had always hoped for.


When I started reading the book, I felt as if it had grabbed the doubts and wonders around in my head and transformed them into tangible ideas. Still, I hadn’t understood its message of becoming who I can really be until months after finishing the novel. That I understood it does not mean I have been able to fully embrace it, though; sometimes I forget the desire to live the life inside of me and sometimes I do not even want for it to get out.


Throughout adolescence I think we go through various changes that conflict with us when wondering what we really want; it brings with it the struggles of figuring out what the life inside of us really wants to do. Day by day I’m still trying to fathom how everything applies to my own life. It's a journey still far from over.



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