Siddhartha Deborah Erwin
Hermann Hesse College Prep.
New Directions Jan. 25, 1999
? 1951 Report # 4


Siddhartha is a fictional book about a man striving to find the true meaning in life. It has a very proper and intellectual atmosphere. The story is set in India, but the time is not apparent. Everyone seemed to belong to a group of people who had their own beliefs and methods of praising the gods and becoming worthy of heaven. There was also a big difference between "learned men" and "ordinary men".

Siddhartha is the main character of the story. The story is of his life, beginning at about adolescence; therefore, his age is not steady throughout the story. He is "intelligent and thirsty for knowledge" and in search for the divine meaning of life and the after-life. As a young man, he is "strong, handsome, with eyes like kings eyes and a slim figure"; and as an older man he has a radiant smile and a serene, peaceful face.

Govinda is Siddhartha's childhood friend. He, also, is in search for the true meaning of life. Vasudeva is an old ferryman whom Siddhartha becomes good friends with, lives with, and learns much from. Siddhartha goes to Kamala in order to learn about love, and she has his child.

Siddhartha, a Brahmin's son, begins to doubt the beliefs of the Brahmins. He sees a group of Samanas pass through town and decides that is the kind of life he wished to live, so simple and pure. He asks his father's permission to join the Samanas and stands in one place all night until his father allows him to go. He and Govinda go to live with the Samanas in the woods and live simply; almost no clothes, absolutely no possessions, eating only once a day, and often fasting for many days. The Samanas practice was "to become empty" and "let the Self die" in order to awaken he innermost of Being. Siddhartha soon begins to see flaw in the Samanas' practice and when he hears word of a Buddha, an Illustrious One, he decides to follow him.

He and Govinda leave the Samanas and go to see Gotama, the illustrious Buddha. They listen to his teachings and Govinda pays his allegiance to the Illustrious One and becomes a monk. Govinda is the one who has always followed Siddhartha and wants to stay with him. But Siddhartha does not want to join Gotama's people, decides to go on his own, and he and Govinda separate. Siddhartha speaks with Gotama and tells him that he cannot stay and commit himself the teachings. He says that he feels one has to learn things for themselves and his goal cannot be obtained through teachings. Siddhartha leaves the grove and leaves his friend.

Siddhartha begins to see beauty and necessity in everything. Such things as the trees and animals were, to the Brahmins, thought of as illusions; therefore, Siddhartha had never noticed them before.

Siddhartha travels to a village, but first meets the ferryman who allows him to sleep in his hut. In the village, he meets Kamala, the well-known courtesan, and asks her to teach him of love. She tells him that he must have fine clothes, fine shoes, and money to buy her gifts. She sets up an appointment with a merchant with whom he may work for. Siddhartha meets with Kamaswami, the merchant and gets a job from him because he can read and write, which is uncommon with the ordinary people. He lives with Kamaswami, learning of business and rich lifestyle. He receives fine clothes, shoes, and money and spends much time with Kamala. She teaches him the art of love, but they both realize that neither of them is capable of truly loving.

Siddhartha's life has always been directed by the art of thinking, waiting, and fasting; but soon, he becomes one of the "ordinary people". He is now rich, begins gambling and drinking. He forgets all the things that were important to him. He is bitter and too involved in trivial things. He realizes that he is lost in Samsara and decides to leave. Kamala hears of his disappearance but is not surprised, she always knew that he was a Samana at heart. After a time, she