Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Comparative Theme: The "Journey" (Round Two)


Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha".

Group members:
Michaela I.
Alinne D.
Mary N.

There's tons of info on this book, like the wiki page, but I think it best if you stick to both your philosophic reaction to the book, comparisons to The Alchemist, and passage explications.

12 comments:

Mary N. said...

Hey group!

The "Siddharta" verson we will be reading consists 81 pages, and we need to divide this into 4 parts (3 if you're volunteering for the Polar Express).

So 20 pages = each post, for 4 total posts.
And 27 pages = each post, for 3 total posts.

Sounds good?

Michaela I. said...

yup sounds good

Mary N. said...

Post One
Part A: Pages 1-20

Starting with the techniques of Herman Hesse: Hesse’s style is very different from Coelho’s in that he utilizes complex and compound sentences more often than simple sentences. He tends to repeat aspects in the novel that he wants the reader to remember. For example, on page 9 Hesse stresses the fact that Siddhartha learns from the samanas in this one sentence, “We have learned, and we are continuing to learn. You will be a great samana, Siddhartha. You have learned every exercise quickly, the old samanas have admired you often.” In this one sentence alone, the author repeats the word “learn” three times. Also, to characterize Siddhartha as very curious and very questioning of the world around him, Hesse covers Siddhartha’s wonders on an entire page, page three. At times I feel as though Herman Hesse overdoes this repetitive emphasis.

I want to start out with the differences in the main character Siddhartha and Santiago. Siddhartha is a respected member of his society right from the beginning, due to being a son of a Brahman and an attractive and intelligent young man, while Santiago gained respect from his journey to achieve his dreams. In addition, Siddhartha goes about his journey with aggressive questioning of everything that occurs. Santiago continues his quest peacefully and takes in everything that occurs along the way with curiosity, but never aggression. Right away, Siddhartha gains his credibility from his respected characterization, while Santiago gains his through the experiences he faces along his journey. In my opinion, I respected Santiago as a character as he gains it through knowledge on his journey. I find Siddhartha rather cocky and vain, since his questioning during his wanderings came across as aggressive and conceited. How do you guys feel about the character?

Now, to compare Siddhartha and Santiago: They both are disturbed by constant dreams that seem to haunt them every day about their life quests. As a result, the two main characters always questioned the idea of “a universal one,” in which they both try to seek. Santiago achieves the concept of being one with the universe at the end of his journey by listening to the sounds of the world around him. Siddhartha points out the fact that the teachings from the elders in his village and from his father are not enough for him to learn how to achieve the concept of one. In consequence, he decides to embark on this wandering with different groups in order to experience life himself, in which he hopes to finally achieve the idea of being one with the universe, of achieving nirvana, stated on page 19 by Siddhartha himself.

Another interesting aspect I would like to discuss is when Siddhartha speaks about the obstacles that challenge people from embarking on journeys. He talks about how Govinda chooses to stand in Siddhartha’s shadow due to love. However, Siddhartha stresses independence and individuality in order to find oneself. Just as Santiago left his flock of sheep behind to find the treasure, Siddhartha leaves his father and the Brahmans behind in order to experience the world to achieve nirvana. In addition, Siddhartha constantly questions the core of his soul and his heart. Coelho often stresses the importance of listeing to one's own heart as well.

So, the idea of being one with the universe and the journey are two concepts that occur in both “Siddhartha” and “The Alchemist” so far. The two characters have a common dream in their lives: the achievement of being one (nirvana) with the universe. In order to arrive at this place of happiness, they must embark on journeys in which their experiences will lead them to their successes.

Mary N. said...

Post 2:
Part A: Pages 20-40

Something that really stands out to me in “Siddhartha” is how Siddhartha, as he embarks on this journey, seems to be leaving layers of himself behind rather than gaining them. With Santiago, I always got the impression that as he continued on his quest to achieve his dream, he gained more layers of knowledge and wisdom, as he never had much to begin with. Siddhartha, however, began out with all of the knowledge from his father and Brahmans in his society. He soon realized that in order to achieve nirvana, to become one with the universe, he had to learn to let go of all of these layers he attained throughout his life. Basically, in “The Alchemist,” one learns how to attain wisdom and knowledge to achieve one’s dream if one has no influences. “Siddhartha” is like the reverse of how to achieve one’s dream if one is too influenced by one’s society.

On page 26, Siddhartha finally learns how to let go of all the layers that had preoccupied his life through the teachings from his father and the Brahmans. “All this had existed, but he had not seen it; he had not been present. Now he was present, he belonged to it all.” The “this” in that citation refers to nature – the colors of the flowers, the motion of the stars and the sky, the white noise of nature, the living species, etc. I’m going to make a prediction here: In “The Alchemist,” we learned about Santiago’s experiences and knowledge gained during the journey, which made him wiser about the universal language and symbols. In “Siddhartha,” we would probably learn about how a learned man had to let go of his cockiness and unnecessary knowledge in order to revert back to the simple ways. Let me know what you guys think of my prediction: It may be out there.

On the following page, Siddhartha makes a comment about the people who lived in the village where Kamala resides. He states that, “People are like children.” In “The Alchemist,” we learn that we are at the closest to the natural universe when we are young, as we can hear the language of the world clearly. At the beginning, Siddhartha feels as though these people are too ignorant about the world. Yet, at the end of part two, Siddhartha realizes the simplicity with which these people lived and the lack of it in his lifestyle. Thus, I feel as though this reinforces my prediction that Siddhartha will be doing the reverse of what Santiago had to do in order to achieve his Personal Legend. Speaking of omen, Siddhartha recognizes a “favorable” omen on page 29 when he sees the beautiful Kamara, who eventually teaches him about sex.

Siddhartha has to venture into the merchants’ business world when Kamara demands elegant clothing and gifts from him in return for the lessons she will be teaching. Just as Santiago had decided to help out at the crystal merchant’s store to make money to continue on to Egypt, Siddhartha joins a wealthy merchant’s trade in order to learn from Kamara. In both situations, the main characters end up teaching their benefactors about business and profit. Yet, Santiago did it with respect and with grace while Siddhartha takes advantage of his knowledge and frustrates Kamaswami often by demanding that he learns how to think from Siddhartha himself. As of right now, I do not like Siddhartha very much; he seems to be extremely cocky and ungrateful. He acknowledges the good fortune he faces on his journey, but he implies that this behavior is innocent and ignorant.

Due to the sex scenes and the formal and complex language, I feel as though “Siddhartha” is a novel about achieving one’s Personal Legend written for an older audience. “The Alchemist” is a much simpler novel to read, in language and in concept. Everything has been presented with more clarity and less obscurity of “Siddhartha.”

Mary N. said...

Post 3: Pages 40-62
Part A:

At the beginning of part three, we find out that Siddhartha mocks the people in Kamala’s society because they all possess an aspect that he does not, that of passion and love for something else in their lives. As a result, he ends up mocking them for worrying about their businesses and for fearing changes due to feeling envious of their possession. This envy feeling leads Siddhartha to “pretends” even harder to be one of them, which usually leaves him feeling emptier and meaningless at the end of the day since that is not productive to achieving his Personal Legend. In “The Alchemist,” we read about the four conflicts that will hold one back from achieving one’s dream, in which one of it has been love. Siddhartha’s love for the passion in these peoples’ lives lead him to strive to conform to their ways. Eventually, on page 43, Siddhartha loses all control he has and begins to risk the wealth and fortune by gambling at high stakes in order to try to fill up the empty and meaningless feeling he acquires trying to conform.

Just as in “The Alchemist,” we read about how one must leave everything one has behind on the quest to achieve one’s Personal Legend, it makes complete sense that the universe should cause Siddhartha to lose all the wealth and fortune he has earned to please Kamala in order for him to move on with his life. Siddhartha experiences a dream on page 44 that makes his heart aches in terror; he wakes up questioning his own feelings, thoughts, and actions. This reminds me of when Santiago is told by the alchemist to converse with his heart, to let the heart knows exactly what he needs to do. Siddhartha ends up telling himself to move “Onward! Onward! You have a Calling” (45)! In both novels, there are obvious references to the heart and its role in achieving one’s Personal Legend. The cliché that if one does not have his heart in it, then one will not be successful at it works here!

Another point I want to discuss is Siddhartha’s developing relationship with the natural world around him. After having stripped himself of fortune and wealth, Siddhartha becomes a ferryman and listens to the river with more clarity and purpose. No longer is the river just a river; it now represents an aspect of nature that exists everywhere at every time. In “The Alchemist,” Santiago recognizes this same aspect when he calls upon the earth, the wind, and the sun. Thus, Siddhartha has become closer to the concept of being one with the universe.

At the end of part three, Kamala and her son, whom is Siddhartha’s as well, meet Siddhartha again. Kamala dies of a poisonous snake bite, and leaves her son behind to Siddhartha. What do you think the significant of the son is? It definitely will hinder all the decisions Siddhartha makes from that point on, since he has to consider his son in the equation now.

Mary N. said...

Post 1:
Part B: Response to another Post

In my second post, I proposed a prediction about the type of novel we recognize “Siddhartha” to be at the end of our reading. I stated that,

“In “Siddhartha,” we would probably learn about how a learned man had to let go of his cockiness and unnecessary knowledge in order to revert back to the simple ways. Let me know what you guys think of my prediction: It may be out there.”

After having read parts two and three, I do believe that this is exactly how Herman Hesse structured his novel; he wrote this in order to convey how a man of wealthy intelligence has to strip layers of himself in order to become closer to himself and to the natural universe that surrounds him. In part two, Siddhartha joins a society in which he seeks to be wealthy and possessed in order to please Kamala so that she will teach him about love-making. He enjoys the business and the money for awhile, but after some time, he begins to feel empty and meaningless. This feeling arises from the fact that Siddhartha is not losing all the knowledge that has been drilled into his head from ever since he has been a boy, but he is adding on unnecessary information that will be counterproductive to achieving nirvana, the concept of being one with the universe. Thus, Siddhartha becomes bogged down by useless knowledge; he even becomes cockier and more mocking of the people around him due to feeling envy of their capacity to love.

Advancing forward to part three, Siddhartha begins to lose everything he has earned in a matter of years due to risky gambling and business deals; he simply does not feel the satisfaction in these ordeals alone anymore, he must add some game to it in order to feel good with himself to some extent. I want to refer to “The Alchemist” again in which we learn that the universe conspires with you if you are trying to achieve your Personal Legend. As a result, I want to say that the reason for Siddhartha’s risky business is due to the universe’s doing. The Universe sees that Siddhartha is steering away from his Personal Legend, so it gives him the fortune and the wealth, but accompanies them with emptiness and meaninglessness. Thus, Siddhartha abandons Kamala and his wealth behind, and begins his next journey to become a ferryman.

At the end of part three, Siddhartha states that, “Now all these most transitory things have slipped away from me again, I am standing once more in the sunshine as a I once stood as a little child” (51). As a child, one does not understand much about the society one lives in. A child begins fresh with individual thoughts and feelings, as a child has not been fully exposed to societal influences. This aspect has also been conveyed in “The Alchemist” with Santiago himself. He was a little boy in pursuit of his Personal Legend; he lived simply and therefore, he did not need to strip many layers. Siddhartha, on the other hand, took forty years to strip layers before he could finally learn how to listen to the river.

Mary N. said...

Post 2:
Part B: Responding to another Post…

I took a guess at the audience in my previous post: “Due to the sex scenes and the formal and complex language, I feel as though ‘Siddhartha’ is a novel about achieving one’s Personal Legend written for an older audience. ‘The Alchemist’ is a much simpler novel to read, in language and in concept. Everything has been presented with more clarity and less obscurity of ‘Siddhartha.’”

I just want to expand on this some more, and even get a little more specific about the audience I feel “Siddhartha” is intended for. I still believe that “Siddhartha” has been written for an older audience to teach them about the ways of achieving one’s Personal Legend. The obstacles faced by Siddhartha are not only much more complex and involved than those faced by Santiago, they are also very realistic socially. For example, the “love” experience Santiago has is with Fatima, a girl he met for the first time in the oasis. On the other hand, Siddhartha becomes seduced by a beautiful prostitute, in which motivates him to become a wealthy businessman to earn her “love.” In both of these situations, love holds them back from achieving their Personal Legends. Yet, Santiago’s innocent love allows him to let it go easier than Siddhartha’s lusty one.

In addition, Santiago’s character has been very innocent and very ignorant of societal influences and expectations (just as how a child is barely exposed to the values imposed by society due to the lack of years of being in existence). Thus, this ignorance ends up being the factor as to why Santiago has been able to achieve his Personal Legend so quickly and so easily, while others are said to never succeed due to societal influences that hold them back. Siddhartha, at the end of part three, has passed another twenty years of his life, in which he is only beginning to listen to the river with clarity and understanding. Hesse could be making a comment about not giving up on achieving one’s Personal Legend, no matter how long it takes. Hesse, himself, had set goals, in which he desired to achieve in his lifetime. Unfortunately, it took him some time to establish himself as a writer due to his poor records in school. Yet, when he did sell a best-seller, Hesse still did not meet his other personal goals of conceiving three children, as his wives were barren. Even his impressionistic view of living in the country disappointed him as it did not turn out to be romantic as he figured it would be. Perhaps, writing “Siddhartha” allowed Herman Hesse to keep his dreams alive, along with the motivation to continue chasing after them.

Mary N. said...

Post 4: pages 62-81
Part A:

At the end of the novel, Siddhartha has finally achieved his Personal Legend of becoming one with the universe. Ironically, Siddhartha has believed his calling has been to achieve nirvana. In the end, he realizes that by chasing after goals constantly in his lifetime, he has missed the nature’s signs and speeches that are the ultimate teachers of life’s values. Only through this journey with temptations as obstacles could Siddhartha finally achieved oneness with the universe.

An association with the heart is made again in this last section by Herman Hesse, after Siddhartha’s son has caused great worries for both Siddartha and Vasudeva. Vasudeva suggests that Siddhartha allows his son to go join the many other boys and girls, to be around people of his own age. Siddhartha responses with, “You see into my heart” (65). Vasudeva, who has been one with the natural universe for awhile since he lives on the river, has the ability to “see” into Siddhartha’s heart and soul. After all, the concept of oneness is understanding all aspects of the universe as being from one root. After having “Siddhartha,” I realized the Vasudeva plays the same role the alchemist does in “The Alchemist.” Both of these men taught the main characters about the universe, the concept of oneness, and how to achieve it by listening to the sounds of nature. Vasudeva and the alchemist are both wise men who serve as guidance to Siddhartha and Santiago.

In addition, at the very top of page 70, the readers finally see Siddhartha’s transformation into being one with the universe. To paraphrase half a page, Siddhartha basically states that he sees many types of people travel the river on his boat. Whether they are old, young, woman, men, child, wealthy, poor, etc, Siddhartha feels a connection with all of these people; he sympathizes, pities, acknowledges, and respects them greatly. Siddhartha has finally been able to relate to other people by listening to the river, and understanding that everything and everyone on Earth are all of one. After having faced temptations with wealth, sex, fortune, and age, Siddhartha, by listening to his heart, has stripped layers of societal influences and has become one with the univerise.

“Siddhartha” definitely conveys the same philosophical message of achieving one’s Personal Legend and the journey to do it as “The Alchemist.” In both of these novels, the journey is stressed as being more important than the Personal Legend itself, as the journey enables the characters to mature, to experience, and to learn.

I definitely enjoyed reading Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” although it felt really long-winded and unnecessary detailed at times.

Mary N. said...

Post 3:
Part B: Responding to another Post…

In one of my previous posts, I proposed a question about the significance and the role of Siddhartha’s son. After having finished “Siddhartha,” I realized that this is just another conflict that Siddhartha must overcome, that Coelho covered in “The Alchemist.” Siddhartha’s love for his son holds him back from fully committing himself to the concept of achieving oneness with the natural universe, as he is constantly preoccupied with his son’s mischief and spoiled behavior. Since the son is the only tangible thing left from Kamala, Siddhartha feels compelled to try to teach his son to learn better ways of living, than to order servants around.

Vasudeva, playing the role of the alchemist in “Siddhartha,” advises Siddhartha to let his son go, as his son brings too much burden upon his life. On page 64, Vasudeva says, “I see that you are tormenting yourself, I see that you are grieved. My dear friend, your son is giving you worries, and he is giving me worries, too…I questioned the river, O friend, many times…but the river laughs, it laughs at me, it laughs at me and you, shaking its sides over our foolishness.” Clearly, Vasudeva is suggesting that the river has told him of their stupidity and foolishness in keeping Siddhartha’s son around, as all he does it cause worries since he has not grown up in the two old men’s environment. As in “The Alchemist,” omens prove their importance again in this situation. The river’s recent uncontrollable waves (shaking its sides imply the boat being tipped by the currents of the river) point at the fact that Siddhartha must let go of his son in order to continue living in peace with the universe.

When the son does run away, and Siddhartha tries in vain to pursue after him, he arrives back at the palace in which he first met Kamala. Visions of his past flooded his memory, and he becomes almost handicapped by them. To regain self-control and oneness with the universe, Siddhartha takes a long moment to sit down and meditate --- to begin stripping down layers of the past in order to free himself from their burdens. Vasudeva arrives and returns with Siddhartha, whom has achieved oneness with the universe again by stripping down more layers that hold him back.

Thus, I come to the conclusion that this is the love conflict Coelho points out in “The Alchemist,” in which holds back a person from achieving one’s Personal Legend. The son, although of Kamala and Siddhartha, must be let go of in order for Siddhartha to truly be free from all unnecessary worries that weigh him down.

Mary N. said...

Post 4:
Part B: Responding to another Post…

I want to elaborate more on my previous post about Siddhartha’s developing relationship with the natural universe around him. As I stated before, Siddhartha’s transformation becomes obvious to the readers when he decides to join Vasudeva in becoming a ferryman and living by the river. Vasudeva serves as a teacher to Siddhartha by showing him how to listen to the river through his actions, not through his words.

I think this is a very crucial point in “Siddhartha,” when he finally understands that words do not teach but actions do. At the end of the novel, Siddhartha tells Govinda, his longtime friend who has joined Gotama’s monks, that words mean nothing to him, as they convey absolutely nothing but concepts. Siddhartha, after having traveled and having been challenged by temptations of society, realizes that chasing after words and concepts lead to absolutely no satisfaction of the self. From Vasudeva, Siddhartha becomes enlighten with the teachings of nature (the river). He observes the way Vasudeva listens with intention and with purpose, the way he rows his boat across the river, and the way he understands other people’s hearts. Through these daily observations of Vasudeva, Siddhartha follows suit and begins to hear the river clearer and louder than before. He starts to recognize the sway in the trees and the colors of the flowers.

At this point in “Siddhartha,” Siddartha has finally achieved oneness with the natural universe, as he learns to let go of the words of his teachers (his father than the Brahmans from back home). He disciplines himself to hear the nature around him, to let go of unnecessary burdens though how much love he feels for them, and by creating his own doctrine to live by instead of living by Gotama’s or any other. Herman Hesse shows that it may take several decades before one can finally achieve one’s dream, but at the end, the obstacles and the wait are worth it. Siddhartha finally lives in peace.

Michaela I. said...

Part 1 A

When reading Siddhartha I immediately noticed the flowery use of language. Anaphora is the more apparent technique that Hesse uses. The anaphora is reflective of the subject matter. Buddhism and nature, two of the novels major themes so far, are subjects that tend to be flowery and dramatic. Therefore the use of a technique such as anaphora helps create this quality; it establishes the tone of the novel and subject matter. There are also several series of rhetorical questions. These questions are used to characterize Siddhartha as an inquiring mind or perhaps a confused person in need of guidance. When I noticed the frequency of Siddhartha’s questioning I immediately connected to the Greek philosophical figure Socrates. The Socratic idea of questioning established beliefs and the rejection of blind faith is apparent in the beginning of this novel, more specifically in the characterization of Siddhartha. I just find it interesting how this novel, a novel concerning a completely different culture and religion, can relate to ancient Greek philosophy. Both the themes in Siddhartha and in The Alchemist have this universal quality.

On pages 10 and 11 the heart is mentioned several times. The heart is the source of feelings, intuition and decisions according to these two pages. This further supports the idea of individualism that Hesse establishes. Since the heart is seen as the representation of the Self, the individual, Hesse is trying to establish the idea that one’s heart should determine one’s goals. Hesse pits blind faith and listening to one’s heart against each other. This is clear when Hesse contrasts Govinda and Siddhartha. Govinda immediately follows Buddha while Siddhartha listens to his heart and sets off on his own journey. Just to be more specific, Hesse is comparing blind faith with individualism.


Part 1 B

Responding to Mary’s post 1A, I agree that the anaphora and other repetition is used too frequently to the point where as a reader you feel like Hesse is overemphasizing his point. Also the continuous anaphora gives the text an elevated and overly dramatic tone. While this may establish the tone for the novel, it can become quite distracting for the reader. As for how I feel about Siddhartha, I do agree that he can be rather arrogant, but I do appreciate that he is following what his own being tells him rather than simply accepting what others say. Continuing on the idea I presented in part 1A, I think Hesse characterizes Siddhartha in this specific way in order to present and support the message about blind faith and self-fulfillment. Finally, Mary brought up a great point that I initially overlooked. When comparing Siddhartha and Santiago you mentioned that Santiago left his herd and Siddhartha left his father and the Samanas. Perhaps both authors are making statements about individualism. Leaving the family and companions that one has seems to be the only way to achieve one’s true goal. Both authors could be saying that such people get in the way or totally stop one from reaching their personal goals.

Michaela I. said...

Part 2 A

In this section I thought it the role of nature vs. society was rather interesting. Siddhartha was a Samana who lived in the forest. Here he was being thought spiritual lessons. Here he was gaining substantial religious knowledge but apparently it wasn’t enough to satisfy him. Siddhartha leaves the forest, this place of knowledge, to pursue the type of knowledge he desires. He goes to a grove in what seems to be a town to pursue such knowledge. He even shaves his beard and promises to get new clothes to wear for Kamala’s sake. Sorry for summarizing but my point is that it is unusual that he would enter society and take on societal values in order to find peace and enlightenment. Typically characters in these types of novels escape to the forest and into nature to find self-fulfillment. Hesse may be trying to compare the types of fulfillment: fulfillment one acquires in society versus fulfillment in nature. Nature is used in an opposite way in The Alchemist when Santiago tries to become one with nature and to understand the universal language of nature, in order to achieve his personal goals.

A quick side note. I looked up the name Siddhartha on Wikipedia and it said that that name was the former first name of Gautama Buddha more commonly known simply as Buddha, the creator of Buddhism. It is interesting that this is Siddhartha’s name when another Buddha is mentioned. Which is the real Buddha? I’m confused. Is this novel about the Buddha and are there more than one persons named Buddha, is Buddha simply a common title?

Part 2 B

I agree with Mary that Siddhartha seems to be shedding his old self during his journey. I feel that he is stripping down the layers of his personality in order to discover his true self, the self that is the core of his being. This again goes along with the theme of achieving individualism that I mentioned in my previous posts. The importance of one’s “Self” is stresses so far in the novel and in order to reach one’s purest form, one must rid themselves of the superfluous details of his or her life. This is what Siddhartha is doing.

To respond to your prediction I do see what you are saying. It does seem like Siddhartha is working backwards to achieve his goal. This seems to be an ideal book choice because it contrasts, in this way, well with the journey in The Alchemist.

Finally, I agree that Siddhartha is becoming increasingly arrogant. His greedy character is showing through much more like on page 69 when Siddhartha is eating “everybody’s bread” and when the narrator says that Siddhartha “was never concerned about Kamaswami’s troubles”. Mary brought up a good point, I find it ironic that Siddhartha is trying to influence others to think like him, when he initially embarked on this journey because he didn’t want to be influenced by other’s thoughts anymore.