Man's Search for Meaning in Fight Club and Siddhartha
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In 1922, Hermann Hesse set the youth of Germany free with the glorious peace of Siddhartha. Nearly a century later, Chuck Palahniuk opened the eyes of countless Americans with his nihilistic masterpiece, Fight Club. These two novels were written in different times, in different cultures, for different readers, and for different purposes. One is the poster child for love of self and nature; the other focuses on the destruction of both man and culture, yet the two hold a startling similarity in their underlying meaning, that in a darkening world of sin and distraction, letting go is the only true path to freedom, peace, and happiness. Though vastly different, Fight Club and Siddhartha both essentially tell the same story of man's search for personal meaning.
Siddhartha is the story of a young man who leaves established society to find and create for himself a true doctrine for bliss. Raised and trained as a Brahman in a well-established religious family, Siddhartha feels vain and incomplete. He departs from his people and their lore, peacefully searching for his own dogma, what Hesse refers to as "The Self". "Siddhartha embarks on a journey of self-discovery that takes him through a period of asceticism and self denial followed by one of sensual indulgence ("Siddhartha" 255)." Siddhartha soon finds, however, that nirvana is not so easily attained. Hesse follows Siddhartha through his lifelong journey of mental confusion, emotional turmoil, physical pain and pleasure, and, ultimately, spiritual unity between himself and the world. In short, it is "Hesse's attempt to restore his faith in mankind, to regain his lost peace of mind, and to find again a harmonious relationship with his world ("Siddhartha" 262)."