India May Rounds
Opposites Do Infact Attract
Siddhartha, the celebrated book by swiss author Hermann Hesse, is acclaimed for
its spiritual story arc. Nonetheless, it is also a minefield for symbolic themes such as the
recurring water imagery and the omnipresent circle motif. The most important theme
however, is unity, as Siddhartha realizes it is the answer to his search for nirvana. Unity is
explored in many ways throughout the whole book, but one way in particular stands out: the
idea that opposites attract to form balance and symmetry. Hermann Hesse uses the
relationships of the titular character in his book to substantiate the concept that opposites
attract and the notion that harmony between antipodes is primordial. Siddhartha's opinions
on materialism, enlightenment and wealth vary from that of his friends Kamala, Govinda
and Kamaswami, yet they ensure balance between himself and his companions.
Kamala, Siddhartha's lover whose expertise drew the young Samana to her, differs
from him due to adverse ideals about physical appearance and materialism. When
Siddhartha first meets Kamala, she rejects him because "he (Siddhartha) is not yet good
enough. He must have clothes, fine clothes, and shoes, fine shoes, and plenty of money of
money in his purse and presents for Kamala" (Hesse 45). Kamala places a lot of
importance on physical appearance and demeanor, using it to determine her affiliations.
Contrastingly, Siddhartha understands that appearances can be deceiving. They can
change unlike personality or Atman, the individual soul. " Remember, my dear Govinda, the
world of appearances is transitory, the style of our clothes and our hair is extremely
transitory" (76). Though they have contradicting views on the significance of someone's
mien, Siddhartha and Kamala manage to relate to each other and get along. "He
(Siddhartha) talked to her (Kamala), learned from her, gave her advice, received advice.
She understood him better than Govinda had once done. She was more like him" (58).
Siddhartha and Kamala's contradicting outlooks on physical appearance don't stop them
from becoming friends and eventually falling in love. They need each other. This reinforces
Hermann Hesse's ideology that opposites attract to create unity, harmony and balance. As
he implies later nothing can be entirely good or entirely bad. Kamala and Siddhartha
complete each other's discrepancies.
Govinda, Siddhartha's childhood friend and fellow Samana, contrasts with him
due to their opposing views on how to gain enlightenment and fulfill the Self. Govinda has
always followed the teachings of others on his journey to gain enlightenment, acting as
Siddhartha's shadow for the most part of their life up until the beginning of adulthood, as he
needs guidance. So much so he is dumbfounded when Siddhartha reveals to him that he
does not wish to continue on the Buddha's path with Govinda: "Siddhartha, it is not for me
to reproach you. We have both listened to the Illustrious...