Siddhartha Questions and Answers
by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha book cover
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Explore the symbolic importance of the songbird in the golden cage to both Siddhartha and Kamala from Siddhartha.

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Blake Douglas eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The symbol of a bird in a cage is a classic (and sometimes overused) analogy for a loss of freedom. It is in the bird's nature to fly, and yet flying is impossible inside the cage. Thus we might consider living in a cage to be completely antithetical and antagonistic to the bird's nature, its "purpose" in life. This is the perspective by which the bird is interpreted in SiddharthaWe might go a step further and imply that the bird is everyone; anyone can attain freedom and enlightenment, but the details of our materialistic lives trap us.

Siddhartha's dream, in which the bird has died and he throws its corpse out the window, seems to send the message that death and/or suicide is not an appropriate resolution to Siddhartha's problems; that this would be the same as "throwing away all that was good and of value in himself". This may represent a maturing of his worldview beyond the need for escape by any means necessary.

Kamala sets the bird free in a way which coincides with Siddhartha's spiritual enlightenment, completing the analogy and equating the bird's freedom with Siddhartha's maturation beyond the things that  have been making him unhappy. This also symbolizes that she is "letting him go", and demonstrates generosity on her part because this act cost her something she valued, i.e. her relationship with the thing being set free.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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You have put your finger on one of my very favorite parts (and favorite symbols) in Siddhartha. You are correct to suspect that this cage has amazing symbolic significance.  The songbird represents Siddhartha while the  cage represents his life (at this point) that traps him.  Let's learn why while looking at the text.

The songbird in question rests in a cage for the entire day while he sings and sings and sings (apparently wishing to be set free). Siddhartha has a revelation while looking at this songbird whom Siddhartha both feeds and watches. ...

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mkcapen1 | Student

In the book Siddhartha the songbird sits in the cage all day and sings for its freedom.  Siddhartha feeds and looks at the song bird.  Just like the songbird sings for the life he does not have, Siddhartha can not find happiness where he is in his place in the world. Later he dreams that the songbird dies.  This is symbolic of Siddhartha's feelings of oppression in his current life and his need to escape.

After Siddhartha comes to terms with the fact that riches and acquiring them is just a game, that he is not capable of really loving another human, and that he is unhappy, he sets his oneself free by leaving everything behind to go off to find his way back to his innocent and pure self. 

Kamala lets the songbird go free just as she has let Siddhartha go free.  To care about someone is to set him off on the path that he needs to follow.  She knows he will not be back.  The bird is set free as a symbol of the same situation.  The bird will be free and will not come back either.

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