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CHAPTER 10: The Son
Siddhartha's son is frightened and weeping. He is shocked to witness his mother's funeral. Even though the boy is spoiled, Siddhartha is kind to him. The father realizes that his son has grown up amidst riches and is used to living in luxury as his mother did. When the boy comes, Siddhartha considers himself richer; but he soon becomes very troubled by his behavior. The child is arrogant and defiant. He steals fruits from Vasudeva's trees and does not listen to anything Siddhartha says. In spite of the weaknesses, Siddhartha realizes he loves him.
Vasudeva tells Siddhartha that the child will suffer and commit many sins if he is not corrected. He says that it is a mistake on Siddhartha's part to be so lenient with him. He advises that the child should be punished for the wrong that he does. The ferryman also tells Siddhartha that it is no use expecting a spoiled and arrogant boy to live in a hut and eat bananas and rice. Vasudeva advises Siddhartha to take him to the servants in his mother's house. If they are no longer there, then the boy should be taken to a teacher -- to be educated, to meet other children, and to be in the world to which he belongs.
Siddhartha ignores this advice, and his son continues his poor behavior. Although Siddhartha is a good, kind, gentle, and holy man, these qualities do not appeal to his son. When his father responds to his rudeness with a polite smile, he thinks that he is a cunning fox. In truth, the boy would have preferred to be ill- treated and threatened by him. One day when Siddhartha tells him to go and collect twigs, he rudely tells him to go and collect them himself, for he is not a servant. The next morning the child disappears. A basket containing copper and silver coins and the boat also disappear. Siddhartha knows that his son has run away and goes to search for the boy. When he is unable to find his son, he accepts that it is foolish to pursue him. Siddhartha stands outside the town and meditates on his loss and the pain that it causes.
A hand gently touches his shoulder and awakens him from his trance. It is Vasudeva who has followed him. He gets up and greets his friend and offers him a banana to eat. The catch the ferry and return to the hut. Both men carefully avoid talking about the boy.
The setting of this chapter is mostly in Vasudeva's hut on the banks of the river; but it also briefly goes back to the town where Siddhartha once lived when he worked for Kamaswami. Siddhartha never re-enters the town but lingers outside and observes the happenings, hoping to spy his son. This standing apart is symbolic of his ability to experience the unity of life but not be attached to any one part of it.
The chapter reveals Siddhartha's deep attachment to his son, who does not respond to his father's love. The boy looks upon Siddhartha as a foolish old man who lives simply; he is arrogant and rude to his father. Siddhartha is hurt by his son's behavior, but does not discipline the child appropriately. Because he loves the child immensely, he does not want to lose him. Siddhartha hopes that by using himself as a model, his son will emulate him
Vasudeva senses his friend's predicament and explains to Siddhartha that it is not wise to expect the boy to live a simple and austere life like them, for he is accustomed to luxury and comfort. Vasudeva wisely advises him to take him to his mother's house, where the servants can care for him, or to a teacher, who can educate him. Siddhartha, however, cannot willingly part with his son. As a result, the boy chooses to run away from the father, stealing the ferryman's boat as transportation. Because Siddhartha is genuinely attached to the boy, he feels great sorrow and pain over the loss of him. He realizes that he has experienced a new kind of genuine love, that of a father for his son. When the son runs away from Siddhartha, it parallels the earlier scene in the book when Siddhartha himself left his father's house in order to find his own way in the world. The departure also teaches him the pain that love can cause, making Siddhartha feel very human.
Vasudeva's character is also further developed in the chapter. He is a wise man, as seen when he advises his friend gently but persistently about his son. Vasudeva is truly a helpful, sympathetic, and trusted friend. His concern for Siddhartha is genuine; therefore, he follows Siddhartha when he goes in search of his son, but he does not try to stop Siddhartha from doing what he wishes, nor does he force his opinions on him. It is obvious that Hesse values Vasudeva's noble character and his touching concern for Siddhartha.