Literature Study GuidesSiddharthaPart 2 The Son Summary

Siddhartha | Study Guide

Hermann Hesse

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Siddhartha | Part 2, The Son | Summary

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Summary

Siddhartha's son, a "frightened and gloomy" 11-year-old also named Siddhartha, adjusts poorly to the modest lifestyle of his father and Vasudeva. The child is used to wealthy living, comforts, and being served. Siddhartha tries to be patient and understanding with the grieving boy, but he soon realizes his son brings "only sorrow and trouble." The boy remains "unfriendly and sulky ... arrogant and defiant," and will neither work nor show respect to his elders. Even so, Siddhartha loves the boy and hopes his son will come to love him, too. Months pass, and young Siddhartha's "defiance and temper" continue, troubling his father.

Vasudeva reminds Siddhartha that his son was unwillingly torn away from his previous life and states that he "will not be happy in this place." Siddhartha suggests that the boy simply needs more time, saying, "I am fighting for him, I am trying to reach his heart." He believes the boy is "also called," and that the river will someday speak to him. Vasudeva gently cautions Siddhartha that the boy must find his own path and will suffer much during his life. He then advises his friend to return the boy to town, which will be more like the world with which the boy is familiar. Siddhartha laments that the boy will "repeat all his father's mistakes," becoming lost in a world of "pleasure and power," lost in Samsara. Vasudeva smiles and reminds Siddhartha of his own life, and how his noble father could not "prevent him from living his own life" and making his own mistakes.

Siddhartha is ruled by his love for the boy, though, and cannot heed his friend's advice to let his son go. He realizes he has at last become fully like "ordinary people," for he has given his heart completely to another person. Meanwhile, young Siddhartha returns his father's love and patience with rudeness and bad behavior.

One day, he "openly turn[s] against his father," directly showing his "hatred and contempt" for Siddhartha to his face. "I would rather become a thief and a murderer and go to hell, than be like you," he rages, disgusted with his father's gentle piety. The next day the boy is gone, along with all the money the men have earned by ferrying. Siddhartha pursues him despite Vasudeva's counsel to let him go, for the boy is simply "looking after himself; he is going his own way."

Siddhartha arrives in town and gazes into the garden that was once Kamala's, "seeing the story of his life" and living it all over again in his mind. He realizes his pursuit of the boy is useless, and he "[feels] something die in his heart." He sinks into meditative depression, murmuring Om to himself for many hours, until the gentle hand of Vasudeva "awakened him from his trance." Siddhartha smiles back at his friend, and they return to their life at the ferry, neither speaking of the lost boy nor of Siddhartha's pain.

Analysis

Siddhartha's sudden introduction to parenthood is anything but easy. His son has been raised with very different values from his own—values to which Siddhartha ascribed during his merchant phase, and from which he learned valuable lessons. In wanting to save his son from making his own mistakes, Siddhartha fails to see a truth he himself has experienced: some wisdom is simply not communicable and lessons must be learned individually. He can't make his son's choices for him, just as his own father could not prevent Siddhartha from choosing his own road. Siddhartha is likely deluding himself that his son is "called" to the river because this is what he wishes would happen. Similarly, his own father probably believed Siddhartha was "called" to the life of a Brahmin because that was what he wished for his son. It is, of course, possible that the son will someday be called to the river, just as Siddhartha was, as he grows older. But young Siddhartha is not yet older, and the day of that possible calling is not today.

His son's actions and words show nothing but contempt, and Siddhartha becomes a doormat to the boy, trying to cajole him into returning his love. But as Kamala once said, "One can beg, buy ... and find love in the streets, but it can never be stolen." The son is unwilling to give his love, and Siddhartha cannot force him to do so. Siddhartha follows the very human course of chasing after the boy even though it's clear the child has no interest in remaining with him. It is a fool's errand, as Vasudeva gently points out, and Siddhartha certainly plays the fool here.

Once Siddhartha reaches Kamala's former garden, the futility of his pursuit catches up with him. The theme of the cycles of life is in full swing here, as Siddhartha reviews his own life and sees his old pattern repeating itself in his son. The boy must go through his own cycle of learning just as Siddhartha once did (and is still doing). When Siddhartha feels "something die in his heart," it is likely his unspoken hopes, dreams, or expectations for their father-son relationship. Siddhartha accepts the death of this dream a bit more gracefully than he has done with past disappointments. Rather than contemplating drastic measures as he has done previously, he simply sits and meditates, trying to accept what is and let go of his own wishes for the boy. This time, Siddhartha purposefully employs Om to soothe his aching heart, rather than waiting for Om to come to him. When Vasudeva comes to retrieve him, he willingly returns to the river, letting go of his son at last—the end of another cycle.

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