Archetypes In Siddhartha

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Archetypes In Siddhartha

In analyzing the novel Siddhartha, we find that Herman Hesse has incorporated
many literary techniques to relay his message to the reader.  By using various writing
approaches to convey the theme of the novel, Hesse appeals to the readers' senses and
aides them in grasping the novel.  Included in these techniques are symbolism, metaphor,
allusion, and archetypes.  He compares many issues that Siddhartha faces to everyday
objects and forces, making the novel easier to understand.  Three of the main archetypes
Hesse uses to get his point across are trees, rivers, and sleep.
One of the more obvious symbols used in the novel is a tree.  Cross-culturally, it
is extremely common for trees to represent wisdom.  In Hebrew literature, when Adam
and Eve eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they are "awakened" and gain the insight
of good and evil.  In Norse mythology, the tree of Yggdrasil represents knowledge and
life.  In American literature, John Knowles' "A Separate Peace" uses a giant oak tree to
symbolize Finny and Gene becoming men.  Finally, in Siddhartha we see that trees (and
more broadly, gardens) are present when Siddhartha discovers something about himself.
On just the third page of the novel with Siddhartha contemplating in a fig garden, it
becomes obvious that trees are being used as a representative of learning.  This concept is
repeated many times throughout the novel, some instances of usage more significant than
others.  For example, on page 71 Siddhartha puts his arm around a cocoanut tree while
reflecting on the mistakes he has recently made in his life.  He lets go of the tree and
considers suicide, but immediately sinks back underneath its trunk when he realizes how
childish the thought of killing himself is.  By showing the reader how drastically different
Siddhartha's decisions and ideas are while he's away from a tree as opposed to underneath
of one, we see just how strong its symbolism in the novel is.  The use of this archetype
shows the audience how important wisdom and intelligence are.  
Another example of cross-cultural themes found in Siddhartha is the symbolism
of the river.  We find that in many civilizations rivers represent life and the path we take
to find our destiny.  Garth Brooks' song "The River" is a perfect example of the usage of
rivers as a metaphor for life: "...Trying to learn from what's behind you and never
knowing what's in store, makes each day a constant battle just to stay between the
shores..."  This quote from the song can be directly compared to Siddhartha's life, as he
lives his life trying to gain new knowledge and learn from his experiences.  By
personifying the river and actually making it a character at the end of the novel, it
strengthens the image in a reader's mind of the path that Siddhartha must follow through
his experience on Earth.  Hesse further emphasizes this symbol by using the word
"flowing" frequently throughout the novel.  Small things, like speech "flowing" off a
person's lips, and a body "flowing" gracefully keep the concept of a winding river fresh in
the reader's minds.  These repeated illusions and referrals make the reader realize that
even though we may not always be able to see what's coming up for us in life, we should
be ready for anything.  It also shows that in order to be prepared for the future we must
look at the past and learn from our mistakes.  
A final archetype to look at is that of sleep.  Traditionally, sleeping and waking
up means starting fresh and putting the past behind you.  Contradictory as it sounds,
while one should learn from past events they should not dwell on them, and that's just
what this symbol illustrates.  In several instances is the novel, Siddhartha falls asleep (the
reader should also note that this usually occurs under a tree) and wakes up anewed with a
new outlook on life.  
"Then he had fallen asleep, and on awakening he looked at the
world like a new man....  Never had a sleep so refreshed him,
so renewed him, so rejuvenated him!" (76)
Just as in the traditional English story A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge goes to bed
and wakes up a new man after a series of nightmares, many authors have used the
metaphor of sleep to show emotional growth in their characters.  Another case in point
is Kate Chopin's book on a woman's self-discovery appropriately titled The Awakening.
Just like these authors, Hesse proves to be

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