Literature Study GuidesSiddharthaPart 2 Amongst The People Summary

Siddhartha | Study Guide

Hermann Hesse

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Siddhartha | Part 2, Amongst the People | Summary



Siddhartha meets Kamaswami, who grills him about his current state of poverty. Siddhartha admits he owns nothing, "but of my own free will, so I am not in need." Siddhartha then proves he can read and write, and the merchant is pleased. Kamaswami invites him to live in his house, provides him with food and clothing, and begins to teach him the business. Siddhartha learns well but does not have the same passion the merchant does, for he "regarded it all as a game" to master. As he begins to acquire wealth, he visits Kamala every day, offering her gifts and learning the give and take of making love. Siddhartha realizes "with Kamala lay the value and meaning of his present life, not in Kamaswami's business."

Over time the merchant comes to depend more and more on Siddhartha's help and advice, but Siddhartha's apathy toward business bothers him. He scolds the young man for "wasting time and money" on a business trip to a village, where Siddhartha lingers for days socializing and enjoying himself. Siddhartha shrugs it off and offers to absorb the financial loss, then invites Kamaswami to dismiss him from service at any time. No matter how much the business worries the merchant, Siddhartha remains unruffled, viewing the business only as a means to an end: "to bring him money for Kamala."

During this time Siddhartha also observes people closely, both loving and despising them for "living in a childish or animal-like way." Their everyday problems seem minor to him after years of deprivation as a Samana. To him, the people suffer needlessly for unimportant things: "money, small pleasures and trivial honors." He treats everyone who comes to him as equals, listening attentively to their stories or requests and offering generosity to those less fortunate. Throughout it all, though, he views this new life as a game, "but with his heart, with his real nature, he was not there." That little guiding voice inside him tells him that his life has no meaning, "that real life was flowing past him and did not touch him." Siddhartha wishes he could be more like the people around him, absorbed in their daily goings-on, instead of still feeling like an outsider, an "onlooker."

He continues to see Kamala, too, and they are very close now. He remarks that she has within her "a stillness and sanctuary" just as he does, where she can "retreat at any time and be [her]self." Few people possess this internal wisdom and guide, he says, pointing to Gotama as an example of "one who was perfect in this respect." She teasingly points out that he is thinking the thoughts of a Samana once more. Kamala says she will have his child someday, but then muses, "You do not really love me—you love nobody. Is that not true?" Unsure, Siddhartha wonders if perhaps neither of them can truly love. "Ordinary people can—that is their secret," he concludes.


Previously, Siddhartha dreamed of an alluring woman, and now that woman is becoming the focus of his life: Kamala, his teacher in the art of love. Love is a primary theme of the story, and as Siddhartha learns about physical and romantic love, he expands his overall understanding of love's many facets. Although he makes progress in learning the ropes of business, he simply wants to acquire the money Kamala requires, and beyond that he cares nothing for the profession. This detachment probably helps him to succeed at business to some extent. As he points out to Kamaswami, his long, enjoyable stay in the village may produce fruits in the future should they need to do business again in the village. Siddhartha makes the best of the business trip, with its failed financial transaction, by taking a mini-vacation and enjoying himself. His life is more balanced in this regard than Kamaswami's, who is constantly stressed and seems to get little enjoyment from life. Siddhartha again shows his utter self-confidence when he invites the merchant to fire him if he isn't happy with his work. Siddhartha doesn't care one whit what anyone (except for Kamala) thinks of him, and it shows.

Siddhartha has a love-hate relationship with ordinary people, though it still shows progress, considering how he despised everyone universally as a Samana. The part of him that is moving toward enlightenment loves people, while his former self sometimes resurfaces with disdain for their folly. To his credit, he treats people well, and his reputation increases through this. However, the fact that none of them touch his heart is troublesome. When his inner voice warns that his life is going nowhere, Siddhartha responds by dismissing this nagging feeling. He does this through compartmentalization, a defense mechanism in which a person deals with internal conflict by refusing to acknowledge it. Siddhartha employs it steadfastly, refusing to admit his life is not wholly satisfying, for if he admits this, he will be forced to make changes.

Siddhartha's "inner sanctuary" may be a product of this compartmentalization. He creates a mental realm where the woes and folly of ordinary people cannot touch him. While this mental state is indeed calm and peaceful, it also prevents him from being more like ordinary people—something he needs to experience before he can reach enlightenment. Siddhartha calls it a "sanctuary," which has a religious connotation, and he seems to believe this inner sanctuary is divine. Later experience will show him, however, that all people are divine and are, in fact, one ("unity"). Thus, in mentally separating himself from ordinary people, he is on a false path to enlightenment. Siddhartha cannot see it this way, though, comparing himself and Kamala to the serenely detached Buddha. He seems to feel superior to ordinary people in that he recognizes and uses this inner guidance system, while most people fail to heed it. The Buddha, however, does not judge others for the way they live, and this is why he is "perfect in this respect." Siddhartha, on the other hand, continues to falls short when it comes to judging others.

Kamala also has such an inner sanctuary, though hers probably fulfills a different need than Siddhartha's. She may keep a mental barrier between her innermost self and other people because people disapprove of prostitutes in general. This disapproval could hurt her sense of self if she allowed herself to feel it, so she separates herself from it instead. Her inner sanctuary keeps her from being hurt by those who would use, cheat, or disrespect her, allowing her self-esteem to remain intact.

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