Book Summary for Siddhartha

Book Review, Siddhartha
Siddhartha. Gallo Images/Getty Images.

Siddhartha is a novel by German author Hermann Hesse. It was first published in 1921. Publication in the United States occurred in 1951 by New Directions Publishing of New York.

Setting

The novel Siddhartha is set in the Indian Subcontinent (Islands off the southeastern tip of the Indian peninsula), is often considered a part of the subcontinent. during the time of the Buddha's enlightenment and teaching.

The period about which Hesse writes is between the fourth and fifth century BCE.

Characters

Siddhartha - the protagonist of the novel, Siddhartha is the son of a

Brahmin (religious leader). During the course of the story, Siddhartha journeys far from home in search of spiritual enlightenment.

Govinda - Siddhartha's best friend, Govinda is also searching for spiritual enlightenment. Govinda is a foil to Siddhartha as he is, unlike his friend, willing to accept spiritual teachings without question.

Kamala - a courtesan, Kamala acts as the ambassador to the material world, introducing Siddhartha to the ways of the flesh.

Vasudeva - the ferryman who sets Siddhartha on the true path to enlightenment.

Plot for Siddhartha

Siddhartha centers on the spiritual quest of its title character. Dissatisfied with the ritualistic religious upbringing of his youth, Siddhartha leaves his home with his companion Govinda to join a group of ascetics who have renounced the pleasures of the world in favor of religious meditation.

Siddhartha remains unsatisfied and turns to a life opposite to that of the Samanas. He embraces the pleasures of the material world and abandons himself to these experiences. Eventually, he becomes disillusioned with the decadence of this life and again wanders in search of spiritual wholeness. His quest for enlightenment is finally achieved when he meets a simple ferryman and comes to understand the true nature of the world and himself.

Questions to Ponder:

Consider the following while reading the novel.

1. Questions about the character:

  • What significant differences are there between Siddhartha and Govinda?
  • Why does Siddhartha continue to question and explore different philosophies and ideas about religion?
  • Why does Siddhartha reject the teachings of the Buddha?
  • In what way is Siddhartha's son like his father?
  • Explain the dual role of the ferryman.

2. Questions about the theme:

  • What role does the natural world play in the thematic development of the novel?
  • What is Hesse saying about the quest for enlightenment?
  • How does the internal conflict of Siddhartha add to the archetypal theme of Man vs. Himself?
  • In what way does love confound Siddhartha?

Possible First Sentences

  • Like many great novels, Siddhartha is the story of an individual in search of answers about himself and his world.
  • The idea of spiritual enlightenment is very complex.
  • Siddhartha is a revelation of Eastern religion and philosophy.

Further reading:

How To Write a Book Report in 10 Steps

Book Summaries

Finding a Theme of a Book

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Fleming, Grace. "Book Summary for Siddhartha." ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/siddhartha-book-summary-1856845. Fleming, Grace. (2017, April 4). Book Summary for Siddhartha. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/siddhartha-book-summary-1856845 Fleming, Grace. "Book Summary for Siddhartha." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/siddhartha-book-summary-1856845 (accessed May 24, 2018).