What is the symbolism of the river in Siddhartha?

The river in Siddhartha symbolizes balance. Siddhartha lived a life of extremes before settling down by the river. In the early part of the book, he is deeply entrenched in the world of spiritualism. Later in the book, he is deeply entrenched in the world of materialism. His life lesson, and the lesson for the reader, is to live by the river, living a life of balance that incorporates aspects of spiritualism and materialism that matter to you.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The river symbolizes balance. In the first part of the book, Siddhartha lives in a spiritual world. He experiences life with his family in the village practicing Hinduism. He lives with the Samanas and practices spirituality with them. He learns directly from the Buddha, and although he does not stay,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The river symbolizes balance. In the first part of the book, Siddhartha lives in a spiritual world. He experiences life with his family in the village practicing Hinduism. He lives with the Samanas and practices spirituality with them. He learns directly from the Buddha, and although he does not stay, he learns the basic tenets of Buddhism.

For a brief moment, the reader sees him cross the river into the material world. On the other side of the river, he learns about money, love, and sex. Kamala is the primary teacher when it comes to love and sex, while Kamaswami is the instructor for all things money and business.

Notice how Siddhartha gets deeply entrenched on both sides of the river. He takes his spirituality to an extreme level. He fasts and becomes gaunt and spent. On the material side, he gambles away money and becomes corpulent. He masters tasks on both sides of the river, but he is unable to find a happy medium.

When living with Vasudeva on the river, Siddhartha learns balance. He is making some money (material) while living a simple and fulfilling life (spiritual). The river is where Siddhartha ends up living for the rest of his life, where he can teach others to live a life of balance. The author is trying to tell the reader to master tasks in life that incorporate spirituality and materialism but to always return to a life of balance, finding enlightenment, inner peace, or nirvana.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team