Nietzschean themes in Hermann Hesse's Demian
Hankamer, Jorge Elwood
Master of Arts
The novel Demian marks a chronological boundary between two segments of Hermann Hesse's work separating his earlier period of lyrical romanticism from the period of self-searching and social criticism which followed. Shattered by a series of crises in his personal life and disillusioned over the catastrophe of the war,; Hesse went through a period of re-evaluation of his work which resulted in new tendencies and influences. In particular, the influence of Nietzsche became prominent in his fictional work as well as in his political essays. Hesse's expression of Nietzschean ideas in the political essays of 1917-1918 and in the essay "Eigensinn" (1919) , and his stylistic imitation of Fietzsche in "Zarathustras Wiederkehr" (1919) reveal the extent of this influence. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the Nietzschean themes in Demian to examine Hesse's treatment and development of these themes, in particular- their literacy crystallization. Three principal themes can be discerned in Deman which reveal the influence of Nietzschean ideas. The dichotomy between the "dark" and "light' worlds, which develops into the moral conflict between the ‘'accepted' values of the bourgeois world and the ” forbidden!' elements of the subconscious, is associated with the apollinian-dionysian dichotomy of Nietzsche. The concept of individuation, which forms the major theme of Hie work, is built upon a Nietzschean amor fati. Finally, the theme of Abraxas, who represents the resolution of the dichotomy of the light and dark worlds, is associated with a dionysian affirmation of the role of destruction in life, an acceptance of the validity of demonic elements in the human soul. At the end of the novel, the consequences of the Nietzschean ideal are applied to the fate of Europe. The war of self-destruction is to pave the way for a new order. There is a discordant note in the prophecy of a new social order after the development throughout the novel of the idea of Nietzschean individuation, which is antagonistic to the concept of social progress. Hesse accepts Nietzschean principles in the domain of the soul and its development, but is unwilling to apply them consistently in the domain of social affairs.