Siddhartha Essay: The Symbols of the Smile and the River in Siddhartha

Siddhartha Essay: The Symbols of the Smile and the River in Siddhartha

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The Symbols of the Smile and the River in Siddhartha

 
    An important symbol in Siddhartha is the smile. Each of the three characters in the story who attain a final state of complete serenity is characterized by a beautiful smile which reflects their peaceful, harmonious state. In each case this smile is a completely natural phenomenon; it cannot be created at will by people who have not attained the prerequisite state of harmony with life.

 

The first character who is described as possessing this smile is Gotama, the Buddha. When Siddhartha first sees him, he recognizes him immediately, largely on account of this mysterious smile. Gotama is imperturbable and he retains his smile - and his equanimity - even when Siddhartha engages in debate with him. As Gotama turns to leave, it is his smile which most deeply impresses Siddhartha, for in it the peace and saintliness of the Buddha is epitomized. The narrator comments that Siddhartha was to remember this smile for the rest of his life.

 

Vesudeva also possesses the mystical smile of peace and harmony. A man of very few words, the ferryman often allows his smile to speak for him, and it is a more effective agent of expression than any words could possibly have been. Like the Buddha, Vasudeva is satisfied that he is at peace with the world, and with existence.

 

Siddhartha does not possess this radiant smile at first. He sees it in Gotama and Vasudeva and recognizes its significance, but is too engrossed in physical things to be able to smile serenely himself. First, with the Samanas, he concentrates on mastering his bodily needs. Then, through Kamala and Kamaswami, he learns to enjoy sensual pleasures and soon masters this aspect of life. Finally his ...


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...e lingering sorrow and pain he feels because of his son's departure. One day when Siddhartha sets out to search for his son, the river speaks to him - but not in its usual soothing tone. This time the river laughs at him. Siddhartha looks into the water and sees his own reflection, which reminds him, however, of his father. He is reminded of the pain he caused his own father years earlier when he departed, never to return, and gradually perceives that the river is pointing out to him the repetitious nature of events. Nothing is new, everything is an integral part of a unified whole, including such things as the inevitable separation of fathers and sons. The various voices of the river, the laughter and the sorrow, seem to merge, and finally Siddhartha hears only the sum: the word "Om."

 

Works Cited



Hesse, Herman. Siddhartha. Dover Publications, 1998.

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