The Making of an Existentialist Hermann Hesse in his novel writes about a young child, Emil Sinclair, Learning the ways of the existentialist as he grows up. Emil Sincliar, the protagonist, experiences alienation, deems that there are no absolutes in religion, morals or ethics, and believes life has no meaning except that which he give it in Hermann Hesse s Demian. Emil Sinclair learns that life is meaningless unless, he makes it meaningful.
Max Demian, his friend / teacher, uses the analogy of a moth to explain this existentialist idea, …A moth confines its search to what has sense and value for it, on what it needs, what it is indispensable to its life… The moth limits itself to striving for possible and necessary to life goals. It develops a sixth sense to finding mates miles away. Reproduction is both necessary and possible to achieve despite the overwhelming distances they are from one another. Like the moth, Demian teaches Sinclair that he too must set reasonable goals, especially if they hold an ardent force on him.Order now
Sinclair has to add definition and a purpose to his life; he needs to give it meaning. In addition, Demian tells Sinclair that he must set his own limitations: …That is why each of us has to find out for himself what is permitted and what is forbidden – forbidden for himself…those who are too lazy and comfortable to think for themselves and their own judges obey the laws. Others sense their own laws within them; … each person must stand on his own feet… Whatever makes Sinclair fell uneasy and debase should signal to him that something is wrong.
If he fells comfortable breaking the laws of man, or the laws of the church then he should go ahead and break them. He, himself, is the ultimate judge of what is right and what is wrong for him. Because this philosophy is unorthodox, Sinclair should expect to stand and face the inner conflict of accepting or denying this belief in himself. Sinclair experienced alienation as he struggles with finding himself and his purpose in life. In Sinclair s first introduction with Demian, he learns to see the biblical story of Cain and Abel in a new perspective; Cain could possibly be a hero.
Cain s descendants carry the mark. The mark that separates them from the rest of society. The mark of an existentialist. Demian and Sinclair have the mark of Cain. Throughout the novel Sinclair finds himself alone most of the time. When he attempts to cipher the meanings of his dreams he becomes involved in painting and traps himself in deep contemplation, both of which he does alone. In understanding his dreams, Sinclair will understand himself. Sinclair begins a life long inquisition and ascertains that, ….
Someone who seeks nothing but his own fate no longer has nay companion; he stand quite alone… Sinclair s only true friend is Max whom appears seldomly in and out of his life for brief encounters. He used to have tremendous joy and a strong camaraderie with his family before he took on this quest. Now Sinclair is just a feather in the confines of a fierce sea; he is alone. Sinclair recognizes his loneliness and discovers with it come the existentialist idea that there are no absolutes in religion or morals or ethics. He understands, through alienation, the meaning of life: to live within the parameters of you own laws and code of ethics.
Those who do not find conflict in their lives because it is not conducive with their hearts: They all sense that the rules they live by are no longer valid, that they live according to archaic laws — neither their religion nor their morality is in any way united to the needs of the present…no one trust the other. they hacker after ideals that are ideas no longer but they will hand the man to death who sets up a new one… Those who do not experience alienation miss the meaning of life for them. And since their lives are always in conflict, they focus their frustrations onto he abnormals.
Sinclair, as noted earlier, changes his view on religion when he hears the story of Cain and Abel from Demian. He then asks similar questions Demian impose on him to his father. His father responses with, you should not think that way because it is dangerous. It endangers your soul. From then on Sinclair questions religion. Because most morals and ethical beliefs are rooted in religion, Sinclair s dubiousness toward religion directly affects them. When Sinclair was at the mercy of Franz Kromer, a school bully, he learned the most shocking, unheard of solution from Demian.
He suggest an easy way for Sinclair to break Kromer s hold; murder Kromer. It was shocking because it defied his religious teachings, his own set of morals and his code of ethics. Later Sinclair understands why Demain felt at ease as he casually suggested a holy crime – because religion, morals and ethics are not concrete; they have faults. Emil Sinclair develops the idea of two worlds, the pure world and the evil world. As a child he recalls a beautiful Christmas prayer and the spiritual, biblical tales that always seemed to bring him peace. The world secure in the fortress of his parent s home.
He feels special because he has the luxury of having maids and cooks waiting on him. Sinclair s idea of the pure world rest on his home and family. He viewed his sisters as the daughter of the Almighty. Their angelic face made him apologize each time he wronged them. The other world, the defiled world, was the rest of the world. He looks down at the filthy alley infested with drunkards, prostitutes and of course, sin. As he matures he crosses back and forth over the bridge between the two worlds. He would go to each extreme each day over long periods of time.
He could never be at peace until he finds a balance of both worlds into his soul. Demain verifies the concept of the evil and pure world when he teaches Sinclair about Abraxas – the god of good and evil. It helps Sinclair balance and set his own ethical mixture of the two worlds. Max Demian further explains to Sinclair through a letter he mailed to him that like people, this invisible being must have a dark half. He must be in external equilibrium to be the worst and the best entity of good and evil; Much as Sincliar must learn to equalize the characteristics of both worlds in himself.
In summary, Emil Sinclair becomes an existentialist with the aid of Max Demian. Throughout this novel, Sinclair experiences alienation. In addition, he also sees the world of religion, morals, and ethics in more realistic term. He finally realizes what life means because he defines it himself. In the world of light and dark, Sinclair now understands that he need both aspects of these worlds to survive and he cannot disconnect himself form one world anymore. This book was basically about an account, psychoanalytically, of a young man s life; a conglomeration of the troubles and insights that changed his life.