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Free Study Guide-Siddhartha by Herman Hesse-Free Book Notes Summary
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LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Many different sources came into play in the writing of Siddhartha, including the influence of Eastern religious thought, psychoanalytic theories, and Hesse's own experiences. While growing up, Hesse's early life was influenced by the spirit of his grandfather Gundart Hesse, a learned philologist and missionary who had traveled extensively in the East. He was at home not only in Sanskrit but also in many Indian dialects. Hesse must have certainly browsed through German translations of Sanskrit classics like the Vedas, the Upanishads, and books dealing with Hinduism, Buddhism and eastern mysticism. Additionally, his mother had been born in India and his maternal grandmother was a collector of Indian clothing and artifacts. For Hesse, the East had been a living reality from his childhood.


Siddhartha is loosely based on the life of Gotama Buddha as well as Hesse's own life. The path which Siddhartha takes is not a traditional one and one which displeased his father, much as Hesse's nontraditional path must have met with some disapproval by his own father. Since Jung borrowed heavily from Eastern philosophies, it makes sense that within the context of Jung's psychoanalytic theory, Siddhartha also represents a quest for self- realization which leads to wholeness and transformation. A similar path can be seen in the life of Gotama Buddha.

These varied influences account for the highly spiritual view of the world presented in the novel, which has appeal to East and West alike. For Western readers, Siddhartha helps them understand that God revealed himself to mankind in different ways. For Eastern readers, Siddhartha displayed a world view which stemmed from their own rich cultural history.

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