Siddhartha Character Analysis

characters in the novel Siddhartha as alternate versions of the character Siddhartha rather than individuals themself

Asked by
Last updated by Jill D
1 Answers
Log in to answer

Siddhartha is the precocious son of a Brahman, a member of the highest caste in Hinduism. Beloved by all but unable to find inner peace, he begins his personal search. Abandoning his devout father, he joins the Samanas. Although he learns some skills of spiritual survival from the Samanas, including thinking, waiting, and fasting, he concludes that asceticism is merely an escape from experience.

Siddhartha meets with Gotama the Buddha, who has reached that perfect state of being in which the transmigratory life cycle and agony of time are transcended. However, Siddhartha realizes that no spiritual teaching or doctrine can impart what he wants. He believes teachers and scripture have yielded only second-hand learning, not the firsthand experience from which real knowledge emanates. Thus, Siddhartha embarks on a life of pleasure with Kamala, who shows him the ways of carnal pleasures, and Kamaswami, who introduces him to the ways of material pursuits.

Decades later, Siddhartha feels worthless and alone. Realizing that he has traded his pursuit of Nirvana for its polar opposite, "Sansara," or the world of illusion, spiritual death, and ultimate despair, Siddhartha understands that the cause of his soul sickness is his inability to love.

Sidhartha turns to Vasudeva, the quiet ferryman, and learns from the river. Years of bliss are interrupted by a final encounter with Kamala and the son whom she bore Siddhartha, unbeknownst to him. Siddhartha loves his son, clings to him, and is desolate when he runs away. Again, Siddhartha listens to the river and hears the unity of voices and the word "Om," or perfection. From then on, Siddhartha is in harmony with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, belonging to the unity of all things.

Hesse gives his protagonist the Buddha's personal Sanskrit name, Siddhartha, meaning "he who is on the right road" or "he who has achieved his goal." Hesse does not intend to portray the life of the Buddha but instead attempts to prefigure the pattern of his own hero's transformations. Both Siddharthas, Hesse's character and the religious figure, were unusual children. Buddha left his wife and son to become an ascetic, as Siddhartha leaves his beloved Kamala and his unborn son to take up the contemplative life. Both spent time among mendicant ascetics studying yoga. Buddha spent several years meditating by a river, and Siddhartha's last years are spent in ferryman's service on a river. Buddha's revelations came to him under a fig tree, whereas Siddhartha arrives at his final decision under a mango tree. Buddha had a visionary experience of all his previous existences and the interconnection of all things, and Siddhartha's final vision also embraces simultaneity and oneness.


Siddhartha, BookRags