Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Siddhartha, a Brahman’s son, tall and handsome. He decides in his youth to seek enlightenment. As a result of this quest, he and his friend Govinda leave their comfortable homes and join a group of wandering ascetics, the Samanas. Later, they go to hear the Buddha. Although Siddhartha admires the man, he feels that the life of this monk is not what he is seeking, so he leaves. In his wanderings, he sees a beautiful courtesan and decides that he must know her. She sends him to a merchant to learn a trade. While she teaches him about love, the merchant teaches him about business. By the time he reaches the age of forty, he realizes that he has not found enlightenment. He wanders into the forest, where he meets a ferryman. He stays with him and finally achieves enlightenment by listening to the songs of the river.
Govinda, a monk. A childhood friend of Siddhartha, he insists on accompanying him and joining a group of wandering ascetics. When he hears the Buddha speak, he decides that he must remain with this man, and the friends part. Much later, he encounters a wealthy man sleeping in the woods and stands guard over him until he awakes. It is only then that he discovers that it is his old friend Siddhartha. He is surprised at the changes he finds but makes no judgments. In old age, after the death of the Buddha, he hears of a ferryman who is considered a sage and a holy man, and he goes to see him....
(The entire section is 600 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Siddhartha Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
The Characters (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
In keeping with this novel of ideas, all the major characters in the novel, with the exception of the merchant Kamaswami, are spiritual seekers, each after his own fashion. Most important among them is the protagonist, Siddhartha. Siddhartha is a romantic in the sense that he rejects familial and institutional ties in order to discover truth through his own personal experience. He must make his own mistakes and learn from them, just as his son must do in his turn. Yet Siddhartha possesses a superior soul; his intrinsic purity inevitably reasserts itself, even though he is caught for many years in the false life of sensual pleasure. His personal qualities are less important, however, than the philosophical nature of his quest for enlightenment.
Govinda is always the loyal disciple, never the leader or trailblazer. He accepts a position subordinate to Siddhartha from the outset. Siddhartha is the one who will do great things, and Govinda wants no more than to be his servant and companion. It is Siddhartha’s decision to join the Samanas, and it is also his decision to leave them. It is appropriate that Govinda remains as a disciple of the Buddha; he is happier when he can follow a set of teachings along a prescribed path. By the end of his life, he has won the respect of the younger monks, but he still remains a seeker. Following the conventional path, he has not found peace, a fact which confirms Siddhartha’s earliest suspicions.
(The entire section is 448 words.)
The protagonist of the novel is Siddhartha, who takes his name from the historical Buddha (563-483 B.C.) whose given name was Siddhartha and whose family name was Gautama. The word "Buddha" comes from the Sanskrit and means "the enlightened One." It is precisely this enlightenment which Hesse's main character is seeking, although not entirely in accordance with the life of the actual Buddha.
The remaining characters are: Govinda, Siddhartha's boyhood friend, confidant, and religious follower; Gautama Budda himself; Kamala, the embodiment of sensuality and the mother of Siddhartha's son; Kamaswami, a wealthy merchant; and, Vasudeva, the ferryman with whom Siddhartha later lives. The importance of these characters lies, however, not in their enumeration, but in what they each represent: Govinda, who is Siddhartha's other self; the Buddha, who is the Eastern ideal; Siddhartha himself, who is the Western ideal; Kamala, who represents the art of sensual love; Kamaswami, whose very name means "master of the material world"; and, Vasudeva, saintly reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The representations of the characters can be seen as exhibiting opposites which make up some Whole: ego/alter ego; East/West; spiritual love/earthly love; spirituality/materiality; god/man.
(The entire section is 196 words.)
Buddha Gotama Buddha
Gotama Buddha is said to have brought to a standstill the cycle of rebirth. Before his enlightenment, he first had been an ascetic and then had turned to high living and the pleasures of the world. Siddhartha recognizes his radiance, but, despite his attraction to Gotama, Siddhartha is disinterested in his teaching and will not become a disciple. Siddhartha reminds the Buddha of his own quest for enlightenment, stating, "You have done so by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teaching. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment." This is the central idea of the novel, that one can find the secret of self-realization only by going one's own way.
Gotama Buddha is a fictionalized version of the historical Gotama Buddha (approximately 563 B.C.-483 B.C.), born Prince Siddhartha Gotama. Gotama is the clan name, and Buddha, which means "to know," is the title which his followers gave to him.
Govinda is Siddhartha's childhood friend and confidant. He loves everything about Siddhartha—his eyes, his voice, the way he walked, his grace. Govinda becomes Siddhartha's shadow. Like Siddhartha, Govinda must...
(The entire section is 1712 words.)