Siddhartha By Hermann Hesse Summary and Analysis Part 2: Kamala

Summary

Unlike Part I, the second part of this novel was written with extreme difficulty. Part I, Hesse said, flowed in a potent burst of creative energy, but this creative energy seemed suddenly to run dry; Hesse didn't know how to continue his story or how to end it, so he put the manuscript away for about eighteen months. One would never guess, however, that Hesse had problems with this section. It begins with a superb lyric passage extolling the wonders of the tangible world. Its descriptions of nature have a lulling, trance-like quality, swirling with color and suggestion. The prose is almost biblical, awesome and spell-binding. And beneath the prose, we discern the familiar Hesse theme of Natur/Geist — the temporal realm and the spiritual realm residing on opposite sides of reality — the temporal world on this side of reality and the permanent world on the other side. Now we will learn about the impact of Siddhartha's three years with the Samanas. Despite the allurements of the sensual world of Natur, Samana life has so conditioned Siddhartha that he will be capable of realizing the nature/spirit dichotomy. Siddhartha's inner voice, though neglected, is never quite extinguished.

The "Kamala" sequence, like previous sequences, seems to hover for some time in expository prose, undelineated in definite time, and then suddenly Hesse zooms in for a close-up of a particular day and a half, beginning with a night and continuing through the next day. The events of this particular night and the following day are extremely important in the development of the rest of the novel because they are heavy with symbols and motifs that are used in later sections of the novel. For example, Siddhartha sleeps in a ferryman's hut; the ferryman will be the key figure in Siddhartha's self-resolution and synthesis. Also, the dream which Siddhartha has in the hut is not only full of Jungian symbolism, but it is also the vehicle by which the worlds of sense and spirit are united. Govinda, Siddhartha's shadow (the Jungian other self), appears in that dream as not only Siddhartha's shadow, but also as a hermaphrodite — that is, a symbol of the "anima" (the weak, sensually oriented, female component of the total personality). There is also the symbolism of the beginning of life, of oneness, in the maternal images associated with the female element in the dream. The sense of the flow of life and of oneness can also be associated symbolically with the ferryman's hut, perhaps itself a womb symbol because it will be the ferryman who will be instrumental in Siddhartha's union with the river, a symbol of beginning and of life.

The day after Siddhartha has his dream is significant because it is during this time that Siddhartha meets the ferryman and hears his remarks about one's being able to "learn" from the river. The river, of course, is an archetypal symbol, and here it is the symbolic boundary between the two worlds of sense and spirit. Siddhartha regards his meeting the ferryman as a mere accident, but the ferryman's comments about Siddhartha's destiny to return eventually are structurally and philosophically important. One of the secrets of the river that the ferryman has learned, and one which Siddhartha will finally learn, is that all things eventually return. Like primal waters, everything is imbued with the quality of recurrence. There is no death. There is no time. The river is timeless, ever-changing and yet changeless. Siddhartha, however, is too involved in pursuing the education of his senses to fathom the significance of his conversation with the ferryman and so he dismisses him as, for the present, merely a likable, Govinda-like person.

After having passed the river and the ferryman, Siddhartha finally has his first glimpse of Kamala in the late afternoon. He resolves to shed his beggar's appearance, fearing that Kamala would scorn him. The night passes and on the following day, Siddhartha manipulates his meeting with Kamala, who recalls Siddhartha's deferential bow of the previous afternoon. Siddhartha beseeches Kamala to be his teacher, and we see Kamala's utterly materialistic values in her demand that Siddhartha have fine clothes and shoes. When the question arises as to what Siddhartha can do to earn a living, he can only remember the virtues of thinking, waiting, and fasting which he learned as a Samana. Shortly, however, it is discovered that he can read and write, whereupon he is considered valuable enough to become the partner of the rich merchant Kamaswami. It is even suggested in Kamala's remarks that Siddhartha might be qualified to succeed Kamaswami, for a remark is made about the rich merchant's advanced age. The observant reader, however, can sense that he is not the man whose place Siddhartha will take. In this city, Siddhartha will no more learn love from Kamala's teaching than would he have learned truth from the Hindus' or Buddhists' or Samana's teachings. But Siddhartha will never quite lose those arts which he learned as a Samana. It will be by way of the conditioning inherent in thinking, waiting, and fasting that he will attain the capacity to attain his goal. Siddhartha, of course, means "he who attains his goal."

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

According to Siddhartha, knowledge can come from teachers, but wisdom must come from




Quiz