Ideas, Themes, Symbols, and Symbolism in Siddhartha

Ideas, Themes, Symbols, and Symbolism in Siddhartha

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Siddhartha: Ideas, Themes, and Symbols


This novel had the constant presence of the philosophy of Buddha. From the

beginning to the end, Siddhartha was in search of Nirvana. He repetitively

showed dissatisfaction to each of his new lifestyles and had to move on in his

search. This philosophy was emphasized greatly at the climax, when Siddhartha

attempted suicide but heard the all-knowing "Om" from within himself. By the

end, both he and his friend, Govinda, had reached enlightenment. All of the

characters lived in their own satisfying world. Everyone had reached his own

destiny, everyone had reached his own Nirvana.

 

  The novel had a faint cyclic theme to it. The main character led an ascetic,

pure lifestyle. He then turned to a materialistic world, and finally returned

to the ascetic life. He had lived with the Samanas, a group of ascetics who

lived in the forest. He moved on to the town of Samsara where he fell in love

with a beautiful woman, became a rich merchant, and lived life in luxury. In

his return to the ascetic life, Siddhartha became a ferryman and lived by the

river until the end of this book. He was happiest there, learning from this

great river. This theme was also evident when his young son left him to pursue

other interests. It reminded Siddhartha of when he had left his own father.

Though this theme was never explicitly mentioned by the author, the intent may

have been to have such truths embedded in the reader's subconscious.

 

  The most important theme was the self-discovery of the protagonist. The

reader is brought into the life of this young man and is shown all of the high

and low points. From the very beginning of this novel, Siddhartha was in

search for the truth. What he had in store for himself was many years of

discontent, but finally he found what he was looking for. It was at the river

where Siddhartha found the meaning of life. For many years after his attempted

suicide, he remained by the river and learned the secrets of the world.

 

  A major symbol was the magical river that Siddhartha crossed  several times.

It represented the boundary between the ascetic world and the materialistic

world. He had to cross this river to get from the world of the Samanas (the

ascetics) and the town of Samsara (where his lover and merchant mentor was).

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This boundary itself was a combination of both worlds, as Siddhartha

discovered. He was able to love all things and at the same time, remain pure

and disciplined by the Buddhist philosophy.

 

  This novel has a great number of ideas, themes, and symbols.  Other possible

areas for future discussion include a comparison between Siddhartha and

Buddha, the bird symbol, the mighty "Om", the revisits from past characters,

the feeling of isolation, the love for this world, the idea that time does not

actually exist, etc. These are just some of the topics that could be discussed

in future logs.
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