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Emil Sinclair is a young boy raised in a middle class home, amidst what is described as a Scheinwelt, a play on words meaning "world of light" as well as "world of illusion". Sinclair's entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth (see Plato's cave and dualism). Accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate and friend 'Max Demian', he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self.

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