The River Motif In Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha

1507 Words7 Pages
Throughout Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, the main character, Siddhartha, struggles with a sense of self loathe and metaphorical thirst that stems from a lack of meaning in his life as a Brahmin, or high priest’s son. He is surrounded by people who love and admire him, yet he cannot seem to view himself through their adoring eyes, or find the same peace they all seem to possess. This restlessness grows within his heart, but is never acknowledged by Siddhartha, until a visit to the river, a visit that changes the course of his life as this new consciousness prevents Siddhartha from living with his unhappiness in silence any longer. He sets off on a journey for liberation, nirvana and self-discovery, one that leads him down several different paths,…show more content…
Siddhartha begins to acknowledge that he is unhappy with both himself and the life he lives; noting that he could no longer “delight himself” because “he was no pleasure to himself” (Hesse, 6). Despite the fact that he was “beloved by all” and a “joy to all”, “in his own heart he still bore no joy” (Hesse, 6). Essentially, in spite of everyone’s immense love for him, Siddhartha was unable to perceive himself through the same perspective because he did not love himself. With this realization, Siddhartha goes to the river where “dreams [come] to him and turbulent thoughts [come] flowing from the river water” causing “a restlessness of his soul” to rise “in the smoke from the sacrifices...trickled down from the teachings of the old Brahmins” (Hesse, 6). The river’s role in this stage in Siddhartha’s life is obvious as it does not bestow enlightenment nor intelligence but simply pushes Siddhartha in the right direction, guiding him towards Nirvana from the very beginning. While Siddhartha had already recognized that he was not satisfied with his current life, it was not until his visit to the river that Siddhartha begins “to nourish discontent” as he comes to terms with the fact that “the love of his father and the love of his mother and even the love of his friend Govinda would…show more content…
As Siddhartha leaves the Maya, discovering that in his quest of self-discovery in the company of the “child-people”, he’d began to lie to himself and lose his morality, he arrives again “at the great river in the forest, at the same river across which once, when he was still a young man leaving Gautama’s [Buddha’s] city, a ferryman had carried him (Hesse, 69).” Overcome with suicidal tendencies and feelings of misery, Siddhartha wanders back to the river, contemplating the many paths he has experienced for the sake of a transcendent state where he can longer be trapped by the cycle of death and rebirth; noting that none of them have brought him any closer to his goal, even rather setting him back. This meeting with the river provides another awakening for Siddhartha, as he begins to see the river as what it really is, a symbol of the “eternity of all things in the universe”, including time, helping Siddhartha realize that taking his life because of his past failures is not the solution to his problem and will not bring peace to his soul but embracing his past and using it as a reflective blueprint of what he must do presently, and later in the future, will. So rather than going along with his physical suicide, Siddhartha

    More about The River Motif In Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha

      Open Document