Siddhartha is a fictional book about a man striving to find the true meaning in life. It has a very proper and intellectual atmosphere. The story is set in India, but the time is not apparent. Everyone seemed to belong to a group of people who had their own beliefs and methods of praising the gods and becoming worthy of heaven. There was also a big difference between “learned men” and “ordinary men”.
Siddhartha is the main character of the story. The story is of his life, beginning at about adolescence; therefore, his age is not steady throughout the story. He is “intelligent and thirsty for knowledge” and in search for the divine meaning of life and the after-life. As a young man, he is “strong, handsome, with eyes like kings eyes and a slim figure”; and as an older man he has a radiant smile and a serene, peaceful face.
Govinda is Siddhartha’s childhood friend. He, also, is in search for the true meaning of life. Vasudeva is an old ferryman whom Siddhartha becomes good friends with, lives with, and learns much from. Siddhartha goes to Kamala in order to learn about love, and she has his child.
Siddhartha, a Brahmin’s son, begins to doubt the beliefs of the Brahmins. He sees a group of Samanas pass through town and decides that is the kind of life he wished to live, so simple and pure. He asks his father’s permission to join the Samanas and stands in one place all night until his father allows him to go. He and Govinda go to live with the Samanas in the woods and live simply; almost no clothes, absolutely no possessions, eating only once a day, and often fasting for many days. The Samanas practice was “to become empty” and “let the Self die” in order to awaken he innermost of Being. Siddhartha soon begins to see flaw in the Samanas’ practice and when he hears word of a Buddha, an Illustrious One, he decides to follow him.
He and Govinda leave the Samanas and go to see Gotama, the illustrious Buddha. They listen to his teachings and Govinda pays his allegiance to the Illustrious One and becomes a monk. Govinda is the one who has always followed Siddhartha and wants to stay with him. But Siddhartha does not want to join Gotama’s people, decides to go on his own, and he and Govinda separate. Siddhartha speaks with Gotama and tells him that he cannot stay and commit himself the teachings. He says that he feels one has to learn things for themselves and his goal cannot be obtained through teachings. Siddhartha leaves the grove and leaves his friend.
Siddhartha begins to see beauty and necessity in everything. Such things as the trees and animals were, to the Brahmins, thought of as illusions; therefore, Siddhartha had never noticed them before.
Siddhartha travels to a village, but first meets the ferryman who allows him to sleep in his hut. In the village, he meets Kamala, the well-known courtesan, and asks her to teach him of love. She tells him that he must have fine clothes, fine shoes, and money to buy her gifts. She sets up an appointment with a merchant with whom he may work for. Siddhartha meets with Kamaswami, the merchant and gets a job from him because he can read and write, which is uncommon with the ordinary people. He lives with Kamaswami, learning of business and rich lifestyle. He receives fine clothes, shoes, and money and spends much time with Kamala. She teaches him the art of love, but they both realize that neither of them is capable of truly loving.
Siddhartha’s life has always been directed by the art of thinking, waiting, and fasting; but soon, he becomes one of the “ordinary people”. He is now rich, begins gambling and drinking. He forgets all the things that were important to him. He is bitter and too involved in trivial things. He realizes that he is lost in Samsara and decides to leave. Kamala hears of his disappearance but is not surprised, she always knew that he was a Samana at heart. After a time, she finds herself with a child.
Siddhartha wonders back into the woods, finds a tree near the river to rest by and thinks of drowning himself. Then he heard a voice inside himself pronouncing Om and he found peace and fell asleep. When he awakens, Govinda is sitting next, watching over him while he slept but Govinda did not realize whom the man was. They chat awhile and then depart once again.
Siddhartha returns to the ferryman and they become fast friends and live together in Vasudeva’s hut. Siddhartha learns to become a ferryman and helps him out. He learns to listen to the river, that it will talk to him. One day, Kamala and her son are traveling to see the dying Gotama, when a poisonous snake bites her and Vasudeva finds her. Siddhartha meets his son and Kamala dies. The boy lives with the two men and is spiteful and mean to both. He refuses to love his father and Siddhartha refuses to punish him, he only returns the hateful statements with love and kindness. Finally, the boy blows up at him and runs away. Siddhartha runs after him, against Vasudeva’s wishes, but stops at the village where he met Kamala.
He feels sorry for himself for quite a long time for his son leaving him. One day, he finds that the river is laughing at him, as Vasudeva said it would, and that he had done the same thing to his father. Vasudeva takes Siddhartha to listen to the river and to hear that there are thousands of voices, and all of them make up the world. After Siddhartha realizes this, Vasudeva departs to go into the woods for the remainder of his life.
One day, Govinda travels to the river in search of the ferryman who is considered to be a sage. Again, he does not recognize Siddhartha and has to be told. He asks Siddhartha how he obtained peace. Siddhartha tries to explain, but can’t, for it is something that has to be discovered by the individual. Govinda soon realizes that Siddhartha’s smile and peaceful look was almost the exact one of the Buddha and that Siddhartha had reached his goal.
The conflict of the story is man against himself. Siddhartha struggles with finding the meaning of his life, and the right way to lead it. He learns that one must suffer bad times in order to enjoy the good times. He also learns of blind love and that self-discovery cannot be taught. The whole story is about him reaching the level of complete understanding and peace. He does reach that level, towards the end of his life, and his goal is completed.
The theme of the story is that everything has importance, no matter how big or small. Also, that nothing is all good or all evil. Everything and everyone has good and bad to it and that is necessary. Without the small, trivial things, the world would not be the same. Everything fits together and flows like the river.
Siddhartha was an excellent book. It was slightly difficult to read, but incredibly descriptive and well written. The book was full of raw feelings and thoughts that are so hard to put into words. Such as the theme, which was so much more that what I stated, but so complex that I couldn’t find the words to describe it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, for it had so many views on life that I share but cannot express.