Literature reflects many aspects
of human nature. It can be seen as a
collection of mankind's thoughts. The intangible is transformed from
brainwave patterns to ink patterns. What leads to the writing of literature
varies from author to author. In the case of Hermann Hesse, it was his
personal experiences in life. In the novels Demian and Siddhartha, Hermann
Hesse was influenced by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, both psycho-analysts.
A personal crisis, which caused Hesse to undergo psycho-analysis with Dr. J.B.
Lang, led to the writing of Demian in 1919. His fascination with Eastern
cultures and his trip to India in 1922 directly resulted in the creation of
the novel Siddhartha. The fundamental theme of self-discovery is evident
in both novels. Self-discovery involves developing the mind, experiencing
life, obtaining wisdom, learning about oneself, coming to an understanding and
acceptance of this, and by the end, discovering one's identity. This theme of
self-discovery was important to Hesse because he experienced similar events in
life. He was born in Germany in 1877 and raised in a Protestant household
with expectations to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers and become a
missionary. He did not wish to do so, partly because he was interested in
Eastern religions. This personal crisis of the questioning of fundamental
beliefs deeply affected Hesse. In Demian he writes, "There is only one true
vocation for everybody - to find the way to himself." (Hesse, Demian, 1989,
p.120) Through his struggles, he found that the road to self-discovery could
only be experienced firsthand and could not be explained in words or taught to
others. "... but it becomes clear to him that the way of salvation can not be
taught, that words and creeds are empty sounds, that each man must find the
way by himself, the secret of the experience can not be passed on."
(Malthaner, 1952, p.103) This underlying secret was incorporated into the
novels Demian and Siddhartha.
In both novels, Hermann Hesse explores the theme of self-discovery by
portraying two contrasting worlds, including an all-knowing figure, and
involving religion. By developing two contrasting worlds, the protagonist,
Sidd in Siddhartha and Sinclair in Demian, is able to explore different
philosophies and unite the two worlds to find a harmonious relationship
between them. The use of an all-knowing figure provides the protagonist with
a guiding mentor to aid in the exploration of life and in the attainment of
wisdom, which is an essential part of self-discovery. Religion, as a
fundamental road to self-discovery, is a foundation that is first accepted,
then questioned, eventually rejected, and finally modified. These three
elements of finding one's own personal philosophy,...