Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*India. Asian country in which the young Siddhartha, a tall and handsome Brahman’s son, lives and travels in his search for fulfillment. His quest for enlightenment parallels the Buddha’s legendary journeys in India: He departs his father’s house to join the Samana ascetics; after forsaking them, he goes to the city, and eventually abandons the city to become a ferryman on the river.
India, where Herman Hesse traveled in 1911 to study Eastern religions and philosophies, is the birthplace of Buddhism and its promise of enlightenment, as well as Hesse’s conscious opposition to it. Whereas Buddhism attempts to prescribe an established pattern of development, Hesse attempts to show, through Siddhartha’s journey through India, that quests for spiritual fulfillment are voyages of discovery in which each person finds his or her own path to absolute peace. The setting of India, with its nameless features, incorporates the Buddha’s legendary journeys and their accumulated wisdom, through which Siddhartha pursues his own quest for universal oneness.
River. Unnamed river that is the central natural element in the novel. The river functions symbolically, marking Siddhartha’s evolution. Siddhartha’s early years in his father’s house are spent on the river’s bank in a state of innocence. At the age of eighteen, Siddhartha hopes to find truth by joining the Samanas, whose prescribed truth stirs his doubts. He then crosses the river and goes to the...
(The entire section is 626 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Boulby, Mark. Hermann Hesse: His Mind and Art. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. Scholarly study of the major novels of Hesse. The chapter on Siddhartha provides illuminating information on Hesse’s Orientalism. Discusses the work “in the context of Hesse’s movement away from Buddhism” and views it as the culminating point of his art as a novelist.
Field, G. W. Hermann Hesse. Boston: Twayne, 1970. Contains a critical and analytical chapter on Siddhartha.
Otten, Anna, ed. Hesse Companion. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1977. Eight essays on Hesse’s...
(The entire section is 221 words.)