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Symbolism in Siddhartha

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Jane Swenson

on 17 October 2016

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Transcript of Symbolism in Siddhartha

Symbolism in Siddhartha
Definition of Symbolism
According to W.H. Alden, “A Symbol is felt to be much more before any possible
meaning is consciously recognized, i.e. an object or event which is felt to be more important than reason can immediately explain”
Hesse and symbolism
Hesse presents a transcendental vision where Siddhartha's journey acquires
a symbolic undertone...this process
of self-realization or spiritual fulfillment is quite difficult to convey in ordinary words. Hesse projects it through the use the symbols and images. The major symbols used by Hesse are namely water, river, smiles, and the symbolic names of characters.
The golden cage is the image of Samsara.
The bird is trapped in the cage, in the same way human being is trapped in Samsara, which is as attractive as the golden cage.
Siddhartha's life and the life of the bird in the golden cage, since both are trapped and kept away from the eternal joy.
In his dream, he goes up to the cage and looks inside, finds the bird dead and throws it away on the road. Kamala's dead songbird makes
him believe that it is his self that has been killed due to his own ignorance and pride.
A songbird is any one of the 4000 species of perching birds with vocal organs developed to produce diverse and elaborate bird song. The bird song is used to communicate sexual intentions and territorial presence.
The Sanskrit word samsara means "journeying." In Buddhism, as well as in Hinduism and Jainism, samsara is defined as a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
The River/Water
It seems to remain always constant, although the individual drops of water constantly change. The river is an age-old symbol suggesting eternity and a kind of spiritual understanding or communion.
1. Suggests the unity of all things.
2. As a body of water, also suggests the world of the Mother, the world of nature. Water is the source of life and is necessary to maintain life; it is associated with fertility.
3. A boundary between the world of the Samanas and the world of the senses, between the two worlds which Siddhartha must learn to synthesize.
4. Promotes idea that there is no past or future, everything is present.

Reflects peaceful, harmonious state – enlightenment.
1. Each of the three characters in the story who attain a final state of complete serenity has a beautiful smile which reflects their peaceful, harmonious state. In each case, it cannot be created at will by people who have not attained the prerequisite state of harmony with life.
2. Gotama Buddha, Vesudeva, and Siddhartha eventually possess smiles.
3. The smile, like the river, suggests perfection and unity

Other symbols
1. Snakes – Symbol of transformation, of evolution, of growth.
2. The potter’s wheel - . Man (the tool/wheel) and God (the potter), and life the various creations resulting – using the same instrument, different things emerge, yet all have the same beginning.
3. Dice/gambling – related to life as chance, arbitrary nature of existence.
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