Summary and Analysis Part 1: Awakening



This brief sequence portends a basic turning point in the novel and signals the end of Part I. The mood of this sequence is one of great loneliness, for Siddhartha is beyond the point of being able to return home again, and now he has parted ways with Govinda. He reflects that he has left his former life behind him and has now matured from youth to manhood. He again contemplates the limitations of teachers and reflects that among the things that they cannot teach is the matter of the self. The tone approaches despair as Siddhartha seeks to rid himself of self, or at least to try to flee from self. He sees that there is nothing about which he knows less than his self. He reflects that his lack of knowledge of his self grew out of fear and the desire to flee, and that in his search for Atman he became lost. He feels an awakening and asserts that he will no longer try to escape from Siddhartha. He believes now that he can slough off his search for Atman, his asceticism, and the scriptures. He resolves to learn the secret of Siddhartha from himself.

At this point, all the world around Siddhartha exudes the colorations of sensual beauty, and he is at the brink of the theory that reality is in the world itself, the sensual world. He feels that he has suddenly awakened. Then an icy chill comes over him as he realizes that he is completely alone. Having shed the old skin of meditation, he realizes now that he is not the Brahmin's son any more. Realizing that he belongs to no family or peer group whatever, he falls into a spasm of despair, while at the same time he feels more firmly himself than ever. As Siddhartha experiences the pangs of this awakening, he resolves to never again "walk backwards."

This "Awakening" sequence terminates Part I and prefigures Siddhartha's crossing the river to enter into the sensual world of the city with the beautiful courtesan Kamala. The metaphorically rich imagery of a snake molting its old skin anticipates a later appearance of this popular Indian motif.

Back to Top