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The major theme of Siddhartha is that happiness comes from spiritual peace. Throughout the novel, the protagonist seeks such peace, which is finally achieved through several different stages of life. The first stage is that of an orthodox Brahmin's son. In this stage, he reads the scriptures and performs ritualistic sacrifice. The second is an ascetic stage in which he practices the Samana austerity of self-denial. In the third stage he is caught in the vortex of the material desires of the world, Samsara. The final stage is that of self-realization achieved in the presence of Vasudeva, the ferryman. It is through this cycle that Siddhartha discovers the path to salvation, but what is most important is that he undertakes this path on his own. His inner, spiritual peace is singular in vision.
A minor theme is that love, both parent/child and male/female, is important. Parental love is treated in developing the relationship between Siddhartha and his father and is later paralleled by the relationship between Siddhartha and his son. The tension which arises between these relations is also the cause of a deep, abiding love between the parent and the child. In contrast, the relationship between Siddhartha and Kamala, the courtesan, is limited by its physical nature and is, therefore, unfulfilling, for it is not based on love. Only when a man and woman base their relationship upon a deep, abiding love does it become permanent and rewarding.
Another minor theme explored in the novel is that friendship is very important. It is seen in the early part of the novel in the friendship between Siddhartha and Govinda, his long-time friend. In the second part of the novel this theme is developed in the friendship between Siddhartha and Vasudeva, the ferryman, who initiates him into the mysteries of spiritual life and whom Siddhartha becomes one with in thoughts and goals.
The dominant mood in Siddhartha is that of joy arising out of contemplation and fulfillment. It is a serene world that the author creates, one of thought and discovery of the mysteries of life. It also has an exalted feel to it, almost Biblical, in its tightly crafted prose and sense of timelessness. Time in the novel is compressed and extended; years may pass with no further development than that it is passing and then a moment will be extended for pages. Time in the novel does not parallel reality and contributes to the mood of peacefulness.