Hermann Hesse

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Themes and Colors
The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment Theme Icon
Nature and the Spirit Theme Icon
Direction and Indirection Theme Icon
Truth and Illusion Theme Icon
Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Siddhartha, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment

In the town where Siddhartha was born, Brahmins and sages and young practitioners of the Brahma way of life are all trying to find the path to enlightenment. Siddhartha is raised listening to the guidance of the Brahmin teachers, but he concludes, based on the fact that none of Brahmin’s have themselves achieved enlightenment, that this path does not seem to lead to the celestial heights that he aims for. In search of enlightenment, Siddhartha…

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Nature and the Spirit

Siddhartha’s environment, from his birth to his enlightenment, plays an important role in guiding and inspiring his spiritual journey. Nature provides the physical and spiritual sustenance while he is a samana. And when he is suicidal from his excursion into the world of wealth and anxiety, it is the river that saves him, and which becomes not just a metaphor for the idea of enlightenment but the source of Siddhartha’s revelation. Being all places…

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Direction and Indirection

Part of the teaching of the Buddha is that deliverance comes from rising above the cycles and circles of a worldly life. Throughout the novel, cyclic experiences are viewed negatively. The cycles are connected with the spiritless, sinful lives of the people in the town, whereas the samanas and the Buddha intend to live their lives towards enlightenment and Nirvana, aiming for higher places with every action.

Though Siddhartha appreciates Buddha’s teaching, he doesn’t…

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Truth and Illusion

Enlightenment, sought by all the spiritual characters in the book, is not just a feeling of peace with the world, but a kind of wisdom, an absolute knowledge and acceptance of the way things are. But this truth eludes most of those who seek for it. Some search within the teachings of other wiser people, like Govinda. But such devotees are always in the shadow of someone else’s enlightenment, and never seem to reach…

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Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction

The novel begins with a description of all Siddhartha’s good fortune, but despite all that sets him apart, he is dissatisfied, believing that he has learned all that his elders have within them to teach him. It is this hunger to use his potential completely and know absolute truth that drives each stage of his pilgrimage, and the dissatisfaction he finds at every turn that encourages him to move on. The book seems to…

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