The Theme of Love in Siddharta and One Hundred years of Solitude Essay

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The Theme of Love in Siddharta and One Hundred years of Solitude

Siddharta, written by the German author Herman Hesse in the late 1880’s and One Hundred Years of Solitude, written by Gabriel García Márquez the Colombian author in 1967 are seminal novels that bring to the fore, the inner trials and tribulations that people go through. This paper analyses both these works and explores the theme of love that runs through the works. The paper first provides a brief plot of the two novels and then attempts to explore the theme of love in the works.

Analysis of Siddharta

 Hesse (1922) has written the moving story of Siddharta who is a young Brahmin in ancient India. The word Siddharta means the one who is enlightened and it is also the name of the Holy Buddha. The novel is set during the time of 6th century BC and deals with the growing up experiences and the spiritual journey of the boy. The boy leads a comfortable live in his town, surrounded by ample wealth and has nothing to worry about but a quiet disquiet is running through him and he seeks answers to questions he cannot frame.

One day, he sees a group of Samanas or mendicants who have taken a vow of poverty and piety, forsaken all worldly connections in search of enlightenment. His father is against this whole idea of joining the wandering Samanas who he feels are of not much use as they do not recite the holy scriptures of the Brahmins. Siddharta joins up with the Samanas along with his friend Govinda and wanders around the countryside, leading a life of austerity and piety. After three years, the cords of disquiet strike him again and he decides to leave the band. He lands up at the home of a rich Courtesan or royal prostitute and they develop a physical and carnal relation with her.

Kamala tells him that he must find work and return with rich gifts if he is to win her affection and learn the full art of making love. Siddharta then sets off and joins up with a rich merchant and gradually over the years, becomes a rich businessman. He has forgotten about Kamala but his inner turmoil to seek enlightenment comes back to haunt him and he listens to the discourses of the holy Buddha and realises that true peace and knowledge will come only through personal experiences. Dejected, he goes to a river to drown himself and then hears the river murmuring Om. He goes to sleep and wakes up to find his old friend Govinda, who is watching over him but does not recognise him.

The to chat for a while and part with Siddharta joining up with an enlightened ferryman named Vasudeva. Siddharta decides to stay with him and a few years pass and in the meanwhile, Kamala the courtesan has given birth to Siddharta’s child and while going on a pilgrimage to meet the Buddha, is bitten by a snake near the hut where Siddharta stays. She hands Siddharta his son and dies and Siddharta begins to loo after the spoilt child.

The child not happy with the meagre facilities in the hut, runs away to the city and as Siddharta goes after him, he is stopped by the ferryman who suggests that the boy must experience his own pains to grow up. The ferryman dies and Siddharta realises he has attained enlightenment. He meets up with his old friend Govinda who is yet to attain true knowledge and asks Govinda to kiss his forehead. When he does that, he discovers the oneness of the universe, just as Gotama, Vasudeva, and Siddhartha had before him. Govinda realizes the perfect truth of Siddhartha’s wisdom, and, weeping with wonder, bows down before him.

Analysis of One Hundred Years of Solitude

 Márquez (1967) has narrated the Buendías family’s struggle in the isolated town of Macondo in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. The story covers seven generations the family and has a score of characters who collectively narrate the story through the words of the author. The town is isolated from the country and it is only occasional gypsies who visit the town to sell their products. Over the years, the characters from the one stately family begin to diversify in their outlook and while the founding members were very religious and had a strict moral upbringing, the next generations have taken up to drinking, whoring, fighting and so on.

Change comes in the form of a civil war in which Colonel Aureliano Buendía and leads the Liberal rebels. Other events that are cataclysmic is the civil war in which the plantation workers slaughter the American owners and dump their body in the seas only to have five years of incessant rains strike the area, wiping out all the plantations. The Buendía family is in tatters and reduced to a small minority that have turned to incest and unspeakable things and gradually fade away. The story ends when the last surviving Buendía translates a set of ancient prophecies and finds that all has been predicted: that the village and its inhabitants have merely been living out a preordained cycle, incorporating great beauty and great, tragic sadness.

Exploring the theme of Love in the two works

The novel Siddharta by Herman Hessse is a study of a man’s journey to seek attainment and the book represents a rather old fashioned and moral way of life of the Brahmins in ancient India. The theme of love as portrayed in the novel has many different connotations: the love of Siddharta’s father to his son who is talking of going on a life of hardship and he tries to restrain him; then there is the physical love of Kamala the courtesan who befriends Siddharta as he wanders along the countryside.

Then there is the love and deep affection that Vasudeva the ferryman shares with Siddharta who he regards as his son, there is the theme of love, affection and hope that Siddharta shares with his friend Govinda and finally there is the unrequited love between Kamala and Siddharta and the abandoned love of Siddharta for his son. The theme of love as displayed in the work is platonic, filled with spirituality and affection and even the love between Kamala and Siddharta is portrayed as part of the attempts by Siddharta to gain knowledge and enlightenment.

The relation is not shown as carnal love or lust or undertaken to satiate physical urges. The theme of love seeks to enlighten and bring knowledge between two people. The theme of love as acted as a change agent through the love and it changes hues towards the positive, as the story advances. Not that Siddharta was not subjected to temptation. In the second part, when he enters a village, he comes across a young woman who is attracted towards him (Hesse, 1922).

“While talking, she put her left foot on his right one and made a movement as a woman does who would want to initiate that kind of sexual pleasure with a man, which the textbooks call “climbing a tree”.  Siddhartha felt his blood heating up, and since in this moment he had to think of his dream again, he bend slightly down to the woman and kissed with his lips the brown nipple of her breast.  Looking up, he saw her face smiling full of lust and her eyes, with contracted pupils, begging with desire.

Siddhartha also felt desire and felt the source of his sexuality moving; but since he had never touched a woman before, he hesitated for a moment, while his hands were already prepared to reach out for her.  And in this moment he heard, shuddering with awe, the voice if his innermost self, and this voice said No.  Then, all charms disappeared from the young woman’s smiling face, he no longer saw anything else but the damp glance of a female animal in heat.  Politely, he petted her cheek, turned away from her and disappeared away from the disappointed woman with light steps into the bamboo-wood.” (Hesse, 1922, part 2)

The work by Márquez called One Hundred Years of Solitude is much more realistic in its portrayal of changes and the transformation that occurs in the Buendía family. Love is portrayed here as raw sexuality and love is equated with carnal lust and to the characters, it is one form of physical release. The theme of lust and love are entwined with the lives of the family through all the seven generations. Love and lust begin with the second generation that has José Arcadio, firstborn son of the founding father and he has an affair with a woman named Pilar Ternera, but leaves her after getting her pregnant; then there is Aureliano the eldest son was born with his eyes open after having wept in his mother’s womb and he had an incapacity for love.

In the same generation, there was Amaranta the first child and she suffers the pangs of unrequited love and dies a virginal spinster. In the third generation, Aureliano José almost has sexual relations with his aunt and there is Santa Sofía, a virgin and the daughter of a shopkeeper, hired by Pilar Ternera to have sex with her son Arcadio. Then there is colonel Aureliano Buendía who during his 32 civil war campaigns, has 17 sons by 17 different women, each of whom he stays with for only one night.

There are many more characters and the theme of love is always presented as a carnal outburst and a physical satiation. In many ways the novel depicts the realistic portrayal of life and death in a small town filled with everyday life. The characters seem realistic, live breathe, procreate and die. There is no leeway anywhere in the story for philosophy and enlightenment (Márquez, 1957).

The student of the paper would like to comment that the there are some common themes in both the works that have love and life and the central theme, but the interpretations and practice differs to a very great extent. Herman Hesse who lived for some years in India and had some knowledge of ancient India, its values and traditions has created a character in the form of Siddhartha, who seeks enlightenment and knowledge. Love is one of the means used to find knowledge and there are different forms of love such as the one between a father and his son, a teacher and his disciple and the love of a courtesan and a young boy.

Love is not represented as carnal love and when Siddharta develops relations with Kamala, it is not carnal knowledge that Siddharta seeks but enlightenment. The work by Márquez on the other hand depicts a stark portrayal of humanity at its best and worst. The characters interpret love as sex and there are ample instances in the novel where love has been interpreted and used for physical satiation. This would seem as a more realistic imagery and theme that would be found across all cultures and countries in the present world. There is nothing demure or attempts to be morally upright.

Conclusion

The paper has examined the theme of love Siddharta, written by the German author Herman Hesse in the late 1880’s and One Hundred Years of Solitude, written by Gabriel García Márquez the Colombian author in 1967. In Siddhartha, the author has presented love as a way to attain salvation and knowledge. In the work by  Marquez, love has been portrayed as a means and tool to achieve physical satiation.

References

Hesse, Hermann, 1922. Siddhartha (Translated 1951). Retrieved 17 January 2008 from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/2500

Johnston Ian. 28 March 1995. On Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Retrieved 17 Janyary 2008 from http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/introser/marquez.HTM

Márquez Gabriel García. 1967. One Hundred Years of Solitude (trans 1970). Harper and Row, USA. ISBN ISBN 0-224-61853-9

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