Essay Siddhartha River Symbolism In Huckleberry

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...

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Free Siddhartha Essays: Significance of the River

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The Significance of the River in Siddhartha


In the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse the significance of the river is displayed throughout the experiences that Siddhartha has next to the river and the things that by listening to the sound he comes to understand. Siddhartha is learning something from the moment he rides the ferry to the time when Govinda lays on the ground with tears flowing uncontrollably.

Siddhartha admits to having no money to pay for the voyage, but the Ferryman says that friendship is payment enough, and takes him into town. After leaving town, Siddhartha returns to the river where had met the Ferryman earlier. Intrigued by the river's beauty and silent wisdom, Siddhartha decides to stay by the river. Siddhartha soon meets the Ferryman Vasuveda, the same man who took him across the river earlier. Siddhartha offers to be Vasuveda's apprentice, an offer that the Ferryman graciously accepts. The two grow together as Siddhartha begins to learn the river's wisdom, and soon Siddhartha begins to emulate Vasuveda's demeanor, expressing a contented peace in the routine of daily life. Years pass. One day, the two Ferrymen hear that the Buddha is dying. Kamala, on hearing the news as well, travels with her son to be near Goatama. As she passes near the river, she is bitten by a snake and dies, but not before Vasuveda takes her to Siddhartha.

After Kamala dies, Siddhartha keeps his son with him by the river. The boy, though, refuses to accept Siddhartha as his father and consequently does nothing he is told. Many months pass, but the boy remains intransigent. Eventually the boy runs away. Vasuveda tells Siddhartha to let him go, but Siddhartha follows him. Upon reaching the town, Siddhartha recalls his own experiences there and admits to himself what he knew all along, that he could not help the boy. Siddhartha feels a great sorrow at this loss, and the happiness he had known as a Ferryman leaves him. Vasuveda soon arrives and leads the despondent Siddhartha to back to the river.

The pain of losing his son was long lasting for Siddhartha. It enabled him, however, to identify with ordinary people more than ever before. Though Siddhartha was beginning to understand what wisdom really is, the thought of son did not leave him. One day he sets off in search of his son, but stops as he heard the river laughing at him.

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He looks into the river, sees his own father whom he had left, and turns back. Siddhartha tells Vasuveda all of what he had thought, but as he does, Siddhartha notices a change in the old man. Vasuveda leads Siddhartha back to the river, imploring him to listen deeply. At first Siddhartha hears only the voices of sorrow, but these voices are soon joined by voices of joy, and at last all the voices are subsumed under the great sound of "Om." Realizing the unity of these voices, Siddhartha's pain fades away. He finds salvation. Recognizing his friend's achievement, Vasuveda departs into the woods to die, thereby joining the unity he has helped Siddhartha find at last.

Not long after Vasuveda's departure, Govinda hears rumors of a Ferryman who is a sage. Still restless and unsatisfied after all his years of searching, Govinda goes to speak to the Ferryman. The Ferryman, Siddhartha, recognizes Govinda immediately, though Govinda does not recognize him. When Siddhartha finally addresses Govinda by name, Govinda recognizes him. Happy to have reunited after so long, Govinda spends the night at Siddhartha's hut. Govinda asks Siddhartha what are the doctrines by which he lives. Siddhartha repeats his oft-mentioned refrain that he eschews teachers and doctrines, arguing that while knowledge is communicable, wisdom is not. He says that expressing love and admiration toward all things is the most important thing in the world. Govinda is confused by most of what Siddhartha says, but he feels certain that his old friend is a holy man. Preparing to leave, Govinda asks Siddhartha for something to help him along his path. Siddhartha tells Govinda to kiss his forehead. Doing so causes Govinda to see a continuous stream of different faces in place of Siddhartha's. Overwhelmed by this display of unity and timelessness, Govinda falls to ground, tears flowing uncontrollably.

Hesse also uses the symbolism of the river to unify Siddhartha's experiences. The river serves as a separation between the experiences of the mind and the spirit on the one side, and the experiences of the body and the senses on the other. However, while the river serves as a seeming separation between these two "lands", and "experiences", the river also serves as the unifying principle in that the experiences of the soul are located at the river's edge, "between life's two extremes". It is the river, which before served as an apparent division, which ultimately teaches Siddhartha the most important lesson of all - the unreality of time and the illusion of division



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