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Siddhartha and Narcissus and Goldmund Comparative Essay

Hermann Hesse was a man that lived from 1877 and 1962 and faced a life of struggle as he coped with the effects of war. During this period of time the theme of finding yourself was quite popular and experiences affect his works. Hesse wrote both Narcissus And Goldmund and Siddhartha, two books that are about men who are searching for who they are. The novels themselves have various ideas in common, even small details, but are two different pieces of work. The protagonists in both these books are out on a quest to find themselves, who they are and what they are doing.

Both Siddhartha and Goldmund start off strictly bound to their fate but drift to other ideas, like Siddhartha going from Brahmin status to that of an ascetic and Goldmund from being in cloister life to a wayfarer. Although the two were both in respectable positions in their own societies, an internal conflict drove them in another direction. Goldmund had been forced to work and become a holy man but not because he willed it, it was because of his father pressuring him. The same thing with Siddhartha and he also went against his fathers wishes to become an ascetic.

Both were now on the road less people would rather not travel, but the were on a mission to resolve this conflict. They would go from place to place as they pleased. There is both pain and sorrow in the two journeys of these wanderers, as both of them seem to keep leaving the people they get close to. Siddhartha separates from his friend Govinda and eventually from Kamala, and Goldmund leaves behind his friend Narcissus and every girl that he falls in love with. The leave of these two characters is a shock to their friends Govinda and Narcissus.

During the journeys, the wanderers seem to venture and finally come upon a place they had been before. Just like how Siddhartha returned to the river and Goldmund goes to the cloister. Although they reach the same places they’ve been to, things change for them as they near the end of their long paths. Both are wiser and have much more experience than they did when they came upon these places the first time. Also another recurring theme is the idea that eventually everything comes back.

It’s shown in Narcissus and Goldmund how Goldmund goes back to the cloister and in Siddhartha how he returns to the river. Even further than that is the fact that even friends come back where Narcissus comes upon the opportunity to save Goldmund’s life after many years of not seeing him, and how Govinda meets this new sage, his old friend Siddhartha. The quests of the two protagonists seem to follow the same trend. The two of them, Goldmund and Siddhartha, start their quests in families that are well to do. (Siddhartha is a Brahmin and Goldmund’s father is in the upper class).

Next they both go into a spiritual frenzy as Siddhartha becomes enveloped in mortification of the flesh as an ascetic and Goldmund studies his religion ardently. After that both characters suffer an awakening to something bigger and better. Goldmund is reminded of a mother figure he was deprived of and Siddhartha is going to start his life over again. The two then delve into a world of flesh and forget everything they’ve been governing their lives with. Finally they flee back to a place they had been before and eventually both find what they are looking for.

Siddhartha has finally reached enlightenment and Goldmund knows of his mother’s spirit. The two books Siddhartha and Narcissus and Goldmund convey similar themes: a quest is needed to find yourself, and eventually you will return to what you left long ago. Particularly the first one is the most shown theme because not only do the protagonists go through quests, but so do their friends, Govinda become a Buddhist monk, and Narcissus completing the strenuous training to finally become Abbot John. The two novels are alike in many ways and reading them one after another has changed my perspective on the person I really am.

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