Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Carol E. Elder


The object of this thesis is to show how Hermann Hesse utilizes polar opposites and to show how the integration of conflicting forces works in the lives of the fictional characters in Demian, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game. These four novels not only are representative of the progression of the individual, but together, they are a consecutive representation of the artist's own search for a unified self. Influenced by psychologist Carl Jung's theories regarding the process of development, Hesse portrays the protagonists in constant search of the self. Some of the characters attain a state of perfection and oneness while some fail in their attempt; however, all of the characters are made aware of the conflicts within their own individual personalities, and characters in the last of the series, The Glass Bead Game, are made aware that the individual conflicts are carried over into conflicting problems of society. The most profound conflicts in the novels are conflicts between the spiritual world and the physical world, conflicts between fantasy and reality, and the conflicts between art and life. In the first novel of the series, Demian, the personality of the main character is split into separate selves as the search for self begins. The protagonist, Emil Sinclair, begins his search in a state of innocence, experiences the birth of adulthood through rejection of his father's world and total commitment to the mother world (the world of the physical). Through his battle with death, the conflicts take on universal significance; all dualism is resolved, and his personality becomes integrated. Steppenwolf, on the other hand, begins with the main character, Harry Haller, already aware of the conflicts between his spirit and nature which he calls man and wolf. At the outset, Harry Haller has already been awakened to his sexuality; he only remembers his state of innocence. Throughout this novel, he is constantly aware of his potentiality for a unified personality. In Narcissus and Goldmund, the selves are still divided; one self (Goldmund), recognizes the importance of integration, while the other (Narcissus), does not. The final novel in the series, The Glass Bead Game, shows that the spiritual self, too, recognizes and accepts integration of all aspects of life. The protagonist, Joseph Knecht, depicts, not only the integrated individual, but also the ultimately developed collective man, and he represents the potentiality for a new humanity. Using polar opposites, spirit and nature, intellect and the senses, fantasy and reality, and art and life, Hermann Hesse explores the three separate levels of existence: innocence, knowledge of good and evil, and the highest state of all, the unity of being, wherein there exists a perfect oneness between a specific life and all other life. This thesis traces the process of the search for self as it is artistically represented in Demian, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game.