Skip to content

Essays On The River In Siddhartha

Siddhartha Essay: The Symbols Of The Smile And The River In Siddhartha

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 love of his son and then his sense of pain over losing the boy keep him from attaining serenity. Only when the ferryman takes his final leave, and Siddhartha gazes into his face and listens to the message of the river, does he finally acquire a radiant smile like that of his friend, signifying his own attainment of a state of Unity.

The smile, like the river, suggests perfection and unity, and it is Siddhartha's smile that makes such a strong impression on Govinda at the close of the story. Just as Siddhartha perceived unity and perfection by listening to and gazing into the river, Govinda comes to feel at least an intimation of the Unity of all things by looking into Siddhartha's face and experiencing a genuine emotional response to the saintless revealed in his smile.

The smile and one aspect of the much more complicated river are closely related. Each suggests unity and harmony, and each is associated with Siddhartha at key junctures in his life. Although Gotama possesses the smile, the absence of the river as a significant factor in his life suggests that the smile is symbolic of one aspect of existence, whereas the river must also signify the World of the Mother, a world with which the Buddha has...

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more

The Importance of Sacrifice in Hesse’s Siddhartha

1000 words - 4 pages Pablo Picasso once said, “Every positive value has its price in negative terms.” When a person is in search of “the good life,” it is inevitable that sacrifices must be made in order to attain that favorable end goal. What these people sacrifice, or their “cost of the good life,” can take many different forms. Contrary to popular belief, a cost could potentially affect one’s emotional and physical status, and not just one’s economic status. A...

The Use of Nature in Siddhartha and A Doll’s House

1570 words - 6 pages The Use of Nature in Siddhartha and A Doll’s House Herman Hesse and Henrik Ibsen make extensive references to and use of nature in their respective masterpieces, Siddhartha and A Doll’s House. This includes the use of nature as imagery, symbolism, and to create a motif. While the objects in nature do differ because of the location of the stories, there is also overlap. In Siddhartha Herman Hesse refers to two symbols of nature, birds and...

Siddhartha and The Razor’s Edge

1413 words - 6 pages Siddhartha and The Razor’s Edge The book Siddhartha and the movie The Razor’s Edge are two similar yet different stories. Each these two works explore man’s search for truth, self, and life’s true meaning. The main characters of these stories are very different people, yet they are in search of similar goals. The main character of Siddhartha is Siddhartha. The main character of The Razor’s Edge is Larry Darryl. Larry and...

Comparing the Theme of Self-Discovery in Demian and Siddhartha

2633 words - 11 pages   Literature reflects many aspects  of human nature.  It can be seen as a collection of mankind's thoughts.  The intangible is transformed from brainwave patterns to ink patterns.  What leads to the writing of literature varies from author to author.   In the case of Hermann Hesse, it was his personal experiences in life.  In the novels Demian and Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse was influenced by Sigmund Freud and Carl...

Review of the book Siddhartha,

853 words - 3 pages I am reviewing Siddhartha written by Hermann Hesse. In this paper I will try to break down this book with different philosophies. That means this paper is going to be a mess of different world views, cultures, all...

The book "Siddhartha"conveys a lot of subtle messages: in depth analysis and a thorough character analysis of Siddhartha.

1147 words - 5 pages The book "Siddhartha" subtly conveys a lot of subtle messages. In the following paper I seek to analyze the book in depth and simultaneously do a thorough character analysis of...

The Development of Characters in Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha

734 words - 3 pages The characters in a novel can make or break a story. In fact, some of the plot details, symbols, or themes will appear confusing or thoughtless solely if the characters are not properly worked into the novel. However, characters, when well thought-out, can also enhance a work of literature, pushing it beyond the realm of generic plots and simple, noncomplex themes and symbols. In the novel Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, the development of...

Comparing the Journeys of Hesse's Siddhartha and Gandhi

2065 words - 8 pages        Siddhartha and Gandhi strove for different goals during their lives. Siddhartha's goal was very personal, while Gandhi's goal encompassed the world. This was shown by their spiritual development throughout their journeys. Siddhartha evolved from an inexperienced spiritual being to a man, returned to spirituality, and ended with nirvana. Gandhi traveled a much straighter path, originally being a worldly man merely seeking his correct...

Siddhartha: Gratitude for the Mentors

1154 words - 5 pages Carl Jung once said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Siddhartha, a novel by Hermann Hesse, follows Siddhartha through his life stages. While Siddhartha searches for enlightenment and Nirvana; going from Brahmin, to the rich, then...

Siddhartha Essay

600 words - 2 pages Siddhartha Essay In the novel "Siddhartha" the Ferryman had the most influence over Sidd. The...

Similarities in The Epic of Gilgamesh and Siddhartha As portrayed by an unknown author and Herman Hesse

2788 words - 11 pages Similarities in The Epic of Gilgamesh and SiddharthaAs portrayed by an unknown author and Herman HesseTwo people who lived in very different times can still share the same beliefs and journeys to find the meaning of life. That is the case with Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and the Babylonian text The Epic of Gilgamesh. The protagonists...

Essay on River in Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

753 Words4 Pages

River in "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse

The river is a source of knowledge. It symbolises a teacher, a guru, one who knows and is aware of this knowledge and who imparts it to those who seek knowledge from it. In Herman Hesse’s novella Siddhartha, the protagonist Siddhartha is deeply mystified by the secrets and puzzles of the river. He seeks to unravel and them and gain knowledge from the river in order to achieve his goal of attaining nirvana, enlightenment. He is helped in his course by a ferryman Vasudeva, who has lived all his life close to the river, transporting people from one side to the other. He too has learnt a lot from the river. He helps Siddhartha in understanding the river and at instances, clarifies his doubt.…show more content…

Siddhartha recounts his life to him which
Vasudeva listens with intense concentration and attention. Vasudeva tells him “The river has taught……..the other thing too”. Vasudeva, being quite experienced about the river, tells Siddhartha that he will definitely learn much from the river. He says that Siddhartha had already learnt one thing about the river that it is good to seek, to go into depth and this was very good. Vasudeva says “The river knows everything” on pg 170. The river is a universal source of knowledge and it would impart knowledge to Siddhartha since he whished to seek knowledge from it. It would also teach him how to attain nirvana, that which he was so eager to attain.

In the end, after searching so much for nirvana, after living through so much, Siddhartha attains salvation in front of the river. Vasudeva helps him to listen deeply to the river after Siddhartha tells him everything, all that he felt, all his wounds, all his sins. Hesse says
“His wound was healing……..belonging to the unity of all things” on pg
199. Here, Hesse says that Siddhartha had finally attained nirvana, he had attained his goal, and he had merged his Self into everything.
Siddhartha had become a very simple soul, a soul that was everything and not just one thing. Siddhartha’s final step in attaining enlightenment was listening to the river. This shows that the river was the

Show More