River in Siddhartha

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The river is a setting in the novel, Siddhartha many times in the book, and has many meanings. In the first chapter, Siddhartha visits the river to bath and to make holy sacrifices. “The sun browned his slender shoulders on the river bank, while bathing at the holy ablutions, at the holy sacrifices.”(pg3) When Siddhartha left Govinda behind, Siddhartha meets with the river again, and crossing this river led him to a new beginning. “During the night he slept among the boats on the river, and early in the morning, before the first customers arrived in the shop, he had his beard shaved off by the barber’s assistant. He also had his hair combed and rubbed with fine oil. Then he went to bathe in the river.”(pg52) Moving into the town on the other side of the river, Siddhartha got caught up with having money, just like everyone else in the town. “He was not long in Kamaswami’s house, when he was already taking a part in his master’s business. Daily, however, at the hour she invited him, he visited the beautiful Kamala, in handsome clothes, in fine shoes and soon he also brought her presents.”(pg66) After getting tired of the materialistic lifestyle, Siddhartha crossed the river again, he lets go of all the memories he had on the other side of the river. He started to let go, by giving away his fine clothes. So crossing the river again gave Siddhartha a fresh start. “Will you accept these clothes from me, which I find a nuisance? ... I should prefer it if you would give me some old clothes and keep me here as your assistant, or rather your apprentice, for I must learn how to handle the boat.”(pg103) Staying with the ferryman, next to the river, was one step closer for Siddhartha to find Nirvana.

Whenever Siddhartha meets with the river, it represents rebirth and forgiveness. In this novel, they use the river as a symbol for the stream of life and unity. When Vasudeva teaches Siddhartha to listen carefully for one last time, he hears voices which he always heard...
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