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POINT OF VIEW

The story of Siddhartha is told by a third-person omniscient narrator who stands outside the story but occasionally enters into the mind of a character to tell what he or she is thinking. Most often it is Siddhartha's thoughts and feelings that are described, and how others appear to him, so that the focus of the novel is primarily on its main character. There are occasions when that focus shifts, as, for example, at the beginning, when the attitudes of the palace household are described, and later in the brief references to how Kamaswami and Kamala react to Siddhartha's disappearance.

Another shift away from Siddhartha occurs when the narrator looks out through the dying Kamala's eyes as she recognizes her former lover, Siddhartha, and finds in him the peace she had hoped to obtain from the Buddha. The final chapter, entitled "Govinda," focuses on Siddhartha's boyhood friend when they meet again in old age at the river bank. It is through Govinda's eyes that the narrator gives you a final picture of the Siddhartha who has achieved the goal of his quest.

FORM AND STRUCTURE

The story of Siddhartha is told in a straightforward, chronological form. It follows the hero from his princely youth through a series of spiritual and worldly adventures until he achieves his goal of peace and understanding. The form is biographical, but it is also an allegory in which the characters represent the qualities that their names signify. The hero's experiences, although told as real events, can also be seen as a symbolic inner quest. In its progression from one episode to another Siddhartha has also been compared with the sagas of legendary heroes.


The story is divided into two unequal parts of four chapters in Part One and eight in Part Two. Part One takes Siddhartha from his father's house, through the years with the Samanas and the encounter with the Buddha, to the "Awakening" in which Siddhartha breaks all ties with the past and goes forward alone. Part Two takes him across the river, and in the first four chapters of this section he experiences sensual love, financial success, and the worldly life of the city. Realizing at last that he is trapped, he leaves all this and returns to the river. In the fourth of these chapters he reaches his lowest point of despair and begins to recover. In the next chapter he recrosses the river and remains there through the remaining chapters, living the simple life and achieving at last the peace of a holy man. Although they are not formally separated into a third part, the last four chapters of Siddhartha's life on the river can be viewed as a third part of the story.

Some readers have interpreted this three-part structure as a triad representing Innocence, Guilt, and Redemption. Another version of the three-part structure is in terms of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The thesis and antithesis are opposites-in this case spiritual life versus a worldly and sensual existence-and the synthesis is the conclusion that embodies harmonious aspects of both-Siddhartha's acceptance of the unity of all creation.

Although the novel follows a straight chronological line without flashbacks or digressions, its handling of time is not precise. The three years with the Samanas and the twenty years with Kamala and in the city go by uncounted. You learn only afterward how much time has elapsed. Each of the three parts has covered twenty years of Siddhartha's life.

The author's formal division of the book into two parts-of four and eight chapters, respectively-suggests to some readers that Hesse intended to symbolize the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as taught by the Buddha. In the opinion of others this seems unlikely, considering Siddhartha's ultimate rejection of Buddha's teaching.

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