Ralph Freedman’s Siddhartha: Introduction and Summary
Writer: Ralph Freedman
This essay is an introduction to Siddhartha, one of the greatest novel of 20th century by Hermann Hesse. Professor Freedman, the writer of the essay, writes it in convincing and powerful language. The novel is an oriental tale. It is not only an accomplished work of art and philosophical parable but also a sacred text for deeply committed readers. This novel reflects a yearning for wholeness outside and within the self as an historical and psychological response to the aftermath of war, to economic hardship, and to social unrest. Hesse distinguished himself as a writer and landscape painter reflecting reality as an interior dimension. Most of his fiction was informed by a romantic way of experiencing the outside world as an interior.
In the essay, the writer describes the life of the novelist. Hesse experienced many ups and downs in his life. He himself suffered an emotional crisis that required intensive psychoanalytic treatment with the Jungian disciple. The explosive force of this turn from the romantic nature idyll of the West to the myths of the East erupted in Hesse’s work in full force with Dorman. In his works non-western myth on the basis of social, historical, psychological situations were given prominent place. One of the crucial works in Siddhartha which reflects the eastern philosophy, religion and social realities. Siddhartha is the richest and most ambitious work in the collection, “The Way Within”. The novel Siddhartha provided the sustained artistic form to the writer.
For writing Siddhartha Hesse prepared himself by studying much text to the extent they were available to him in German and while he tried not to be pedantic, his book reflects that knowledge. His characters repeat wisely the message of the Upanishads and their vision of a single unity to accommodate the discordant profusion of physical existence. The idea of reincarnation in both Hindu and Buddhist thought and the attempt to escape from the unceasing bondage to physical life by eventually rising above it is ever present in Siddhartha.
The novel includes the Siddhartha’s whole history and revelation. It starts from his birth runs with his joining the samanas friendship with Govinda, joining in community of monks, love with Kamala, his departure from home, visiting with Vasudeva to achieving enlightenment.
In conclusion, Siddhartha represents a recreation of the life of Buddha. It plays a unique role in modern fiction and emerges as a classical, lyrical novel. So, this essay is a good summary of the novel Siddhartha.