Siddhartha - What message do you think Hermann Hesse wishes to convey by the way he concludes the novel?
Man Ju Y13A
What message do you think Hermann Hesse wishes to convey by the way he concludes the novel?
“Siddhartha” is one of the famous books written by Hermann Hesse. It is a novel about Siddhartha, the protagonist, seeking for self-realization, inner knowledge and ultimate reality. Although some people might regard this book as a rather uninteresting book, I believe that it is because they have not study the book profoundly. In my opinion, it is a thoughtful book which can make us understand the meaning of life. In the following essay, I would discuss about what Hermann Hesse wishes to convey by the way he concludes the novel.
First I would like to talk about Siddhartha’s love for his son. In the chapter “Om”, the story first deals with the sorrow that Siddhartha is suffering from losing his son. Hesse is trying to emphasize that both the love between parent and child and the love between male and female are important to all of us human beings. Not until Siddhartha has his own son did he understand the love towards one’s child. When Siddhartha sees parents with their children, or man with his wife, he knows the feeling they have. But this understanding neither makes his wound heal nor make him forget about the lost of his son. When Siddhartha looks into the river, he sees his reflection staring back. And it reminds him of his father, who must “had suffered the same sorrow that he is now suffering for his own son”. Hesse describes the feeling of losing one’s own son effectively, as if he himself has lost one before. I think Hesse is trying to make teenagers understand the unselfish love they have from their parent. Siddhartha also realised that everything moves in recurring circles, they follow paths which is followed by so many before. Siddhartha is actually a representation of everyone. Everyone might face what Siddhartha has faced.
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In the same chapter “Om”, Siddhartha finally attains nirvana by listening to the river again. The attainment of nirvana is also the climax of the book. It has always been the ultimate goal for Siddhartha. Siddhartha sees faces from his life in the river. He sees his father, Kamala, Govinda, his son, and many more. He sees the cycle which is recurring all the time. Everything is within the cycle. Every emotion, every feeling experienced by everyone is in the river. And here he awakes; he realizes his own individual insignificance in the faces of eternity and the river. He has found the perfection and unity. The river here is actually representing the world. At this point, I think Hesse is saying that no matter what happened to us, time is still flowing like the river and nothing is going to change. We are all caught in the circle of reincarnation. Thinking about this, questions formed in my mind. Why do we have to live in the world, mixing with everyone, if we are all going to die someday? Perhaps there is no answer for it. It is just a rule. Time is always flowing, we can not change the fate of dying, but we can make the best use of the time and work for everyone’s self goal.
In the final chapter of the book, Hesse uses the figure of Siddhartha to express some of his views towards life. In this chapter, he meets his best friend Govinda, and once again they talk about their life experiences. Siddhartha thinks that seeking a goal can distract one from finding that goal because his eyes only see the think that he seeks and ignores what he finds or has beside him. “Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.“ This reminds me that Siddhartha used to learn from the samanas and although he had leant much from them, but it was not what he really wished to learn. We are always seeking and learning, but at the same time dissatisfied with what we have learnt. Perhaps that is because we seeks too much and not seeing what was right in front of us.
Siddhartha also says to Govinda that “knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.” Wisdom and experience can not be taught. He does not trust words. No one can tell you where to find wisdom. Words can only express part of a truth, and can be easily distorted and misunderstood. This made me think about several questions. What is Wisdom? What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Are we not gaining wisdom from learning and experiencing? Knowledge is what we know. I always thought that gaining knowledge is also gaining wisdom. According to Hesse, I seem to be wrong. But Hesse himself is using language and words to convey his thoughts to us. If he does not trust words and words can be easily misunderstood, then what is the purpose of writing this book? Isn’t he contradicting what he wrote in the book? However, what Hesse wrote made me think about the true wisdom that we can gain from the world. Perhaps we can only gain wisdom by combining the experience we gained from the past with knowledge and also appreciating it.
In Siddhartha’s conversation with Govinda, we also learn that the opposite of every truth is just as true. This is because everything has tow sides, the good side and the bad side. That forms the truth. The world has two sides too, the samsara and nirvana. It is our choice to choose either or both sides. We might choose rightly as well as wrongly. But still, the world is perfect at any moment. Perhaps it is because I do not fully understand what Hesse meant by “the world is perfect at any moment.” I do not agree with his thoughts. If the world is always perfect, why are there so many disgraceful and bad things happening? Does Hesse look at these disgraceful things as something which is also recurring in the river? Is it because Hesse loves the world dearly that he forgives these disgraceful things?
Raising a stone, Siddhartha explains that he loves the stone. The stone is like a person, capable of becoming anything, for it is a part of Om. Siddhartha loves the world. "This is why that which is seems good to me, death seems like life, sin seems like saintliness, cleverness like foolishness, everything must be like that…I learned how to let the world be as it is, and to love it and belong to it gladly.” I think Hesse is trying to persuade people to love the world. Respect each other instead of hating each other. I believe that Hesse himself does love the world.
When Govinda asked for a final word to take along on his way, Siddhartha told him to kiss him on the forehead. Staring into Siddhartha's face he sees a river, as Siddhartha had seen upon the face of Vasudeva, flowing with thousands of faces merging together and separating. Govinda now sees the recurring of everything in the world by staring into the perfect one. Here, Siddhartha could be representing the world where everyone lives in it. He is no more selfish but he loves everything he sees. I think Hesse wishes that everyone in the world could think and act like Siddhartha, and the world would attain perfection.
The ending of this novel indeed makes every reader think about the meaning of life. And that would be the final thing which Hesse hope to convey through this novel.