Narcissus and Goldmund Themes

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The Spirit and the Flesh

Each of the two title characters in the novel represents one-half of the human condition. Narcissus crafts himself into almost pure spirit, while Goldmund devotes himself almost completely to the way of the flesh. To become what they are, each character must deny and repress the opposite half of himself. Narcissus will not even allow physical contact with another person beyond the briefest hug when his best friend, Goldmund, is leaving the cloister, perhaps forever. To Narcissus, feelings of brotherly love must be kept on a spiritual plane, safe from the emotional complications and worldliness of warm, tactile friendship. Goldmund understands this point of view but finds it strange and limiting. No sooner does he go into the world than he becomes immersed in all its physical experiences, both good and bad, including sex, drinking, travel, art, constant contact with strangers, and violence. Over...

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This section contains 820 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Narcissus and Goldmund Study Guide
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