Pariya Sripakdeevong

IB English SLY1
Paper II practice

Journeys, both literal and metaphorical, often play a central role in literature. Discuss

with reference to works you have studied. (Nov. 2006)

In Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, and Hunger, by Knut Hamsun, journey plays

momentous roles in the character development. Siddhartha, the Brahmin’s son,

learns the most important lesson of his life after he abandons everything and sets

out to find the underlying truth in a clueless journey. Alternatively, the narrator

wanders around the city of Christiania, hoping to earn his place in society, yet

eventually realizing the futility in his journey. Initially in the journeys, both

characters’ lack of food consumption leads to abandonment in the characters’

connection to people and the outside world. As both characters wander around

the forest and the city, illusion lures in as they meet women and become eager to

earn fine possessions. Finally, Siddhartha and the narrator abandons the long

journey with the hope they gain through connection with the river or the sea;

Siddhartha discovers enlightenment as he crosses the river, and the narrator

discovers futility in the city as he takes the voyage across the sea. Throughout the

journeys, the two characters finally develop their new perspective of viewing the

In the journeys, Siddhartha abandons his relationship with people and

possessions by fasting, while in Hunger the narrator loses connection with the

people in the city because of his suffering from hunger. Siddhartha views fasting

as a way to escape from the tormenting Self, while the narrator in Hunger views

hunger as the trouble causing his hallucinations and thus impeding him from

consciousness. Siddhartha, the noble Brahmin stands up for his definite goal in

life when he leaves his title and family behind, to join the Samanas. Patiently,

Siddhartha tries to abandon his Self by fasting. He cuts off his connection to the

outside world, and finds “torment of the onerous life cycle” (12) where he “felt

thirst, conquered thirst, [and] felt new thirst” (12). Although realizing that fasting

only alleviates him through “temporary escape from the torment of Self” (13), the

prideful young Siddhartha refuses to settle under Gotama, the Illustrious one.

“Thirsted for knowledge....[and] full of questions” (15) Siddhartha believes that

“nobody finds salvation through teachings” (27). Consequently, Siddhartha

leaves his best friend, Govinda, who decides to become the disciple of Gotama,

and continues his path as a Samana alone. Wandering through the city, hunger

causes hallucination in the narrator of Hunger, and thus forces the narrator to be

isolated from the conventions. The narrator is “becoming a freak from hunger in

the middle of the city of Christina!” [104]. The effects of constant sufferings of

starvation cause mind blockage in the narrator; he could not write as he used to
when he “was so much better off” [154] and hence could not find money to

purchase food. His hallucination causes him to be viewed as insane, as the

narrator starts talking to himself and repeating phrases over and over at many

points in the text. The narrator’s relationship with Ylayali ends (and so does all

his connections to the world) because of his odd behaviors. As the narrator

reveals to Ylayali that he “can sense things…That’s all part of [his] insanity”

(180), Ylayali becomes suddenly “frightened” [182] of the narrator. The author

uses extended metaphor, comparing hunger to the dark shadow that follows the

narrator everywhere; hunger is “the same darkness was brooding around me, the

same fathomless black eternity” [80]. “Hunger was beginning to take hold of

[the narrator] again” [122]; it was never gone. Conversely, it is the hunger from

fasting for Siddhartha that brings him temporary escapes from the Self that was

never gone. Note that food (dinner with family or cocktails with friends) often

enhances social connections in the real world. Siddhartha’s consumption of fine

food during the part of life as a wealthy businessman suggests Siddhartha at his

highest point of social involvement. The narrator, too, had access to food when

he “was so much better off” [154] with old acquaintances such as Hans Pauli,

who now “nodded and hurried past” [8] the narrator. Hence, the lack of food

consumption in both characters account for the abandonment of the outside

Through the wanderings in the forest and city, Siddhartha and the

narrator in Hunger become eager to earn possessions, in order to learn the

lessons of love from women. Women in both texts play a significant role in

influencing the characters’ material and appearance idealism. Note that the

journeys of love, or infatuation, are taken by both characters metaphorically, and

contribute to the character development of Siddhartha and the narrator.

Siddhartha felt a “longing and the stir of sex in him” (42) as soon as he comes out

of the forest and in to the village of ‘child people’. The author uses metaphor to

compare the normal village people as the ‘child people’, who live in the chain of

burden, greed, and illusions. Among the ‘child people’, Siddhartha meets

Kamala who would not teach him “the pleasures of love” (45) until Siddhartha

have “clothes…shoes…and money” (45). Clothes, shoes, and money symbolizes

the ideal materials people believe one must have, in order to be prosperous.

Only then did Siddhartha realize the importance of possessions, and thus swings

himself in the “game of passion in which all men play” (57) in order to earn

Kamala’s love. Slowly Siddhartha is completely “chained and burdened” (63)

into the materialistic world. Siddhartha “[is] suddenly overwhelmed with a

feeling of pride. He [is] a Samana no longer”. (49). Siddhartha becomes

“impatient at losses”(64) and cannot remain without food like before. Learning
the “pleasures of love from Kamala and business from Kamaswami” (78),

Siddhartha have become one of the ‘child people’, who experience “fear of

death” (65). With women and possessions, Siddhartha is trapped with the

passion of love and greed; “content with small pleasures and yet never really

satisfied” (67). For the narrator in Hunger, it is Ylayali who he wants to learn the

lessons of love with. One night while walking Ylayali home, the narrator quickly

avoids the idea of going to the zoo because then, Ylayali would know that he is

poor. “In those bright lights, among all the people! frightful clothes, my

skinny face…I had no waist coat…” [140], the narrator thought. This stream of

consciousness suggests narrator’s eagerness to look good with fine clothes in

front of his woman. The narrator takes the metaphorical journey in the obsession

with the arts of love with Yaylali, as Siddhartha is with Kamala. The narrator

content is with his first relationship and is “fascinated…to talk with a spirited

young girl instead of with [himself]”[172]. He considers Ylayali to be the reason

he lives for, within all the misfortunes and sufferings of his life, because she is “a

tiny ray of sunlight, making [the narrator] ecstatically warm” [157]. Hence, the

narrator is determined to be successful in earning kroners to buy fine wine for

Ylayali. Nevertheless, the narrator feels the guilt of not being able to do that for

her; “she was in love with me, the poor thing!” [226]. Through the stream of

consciousness, the narrator implies that the narrator thinks that he, as the poor
thing, does not deserve Ylayali’s love because he doesn’t have fine clothes and

shoes like “the Duke” [204] does.

Traveling across the river or the sea, both Siddhartha and the narrator in

Hunger abandon possession idealism, though the former finally attains Nirvada,

while the latter finally realizes the inevitable sufferings in the city as he seeks for

escape. The literal journey of crossing that river and sea, accounts for the point of

major changes in the characters. As soon as Siddhartha is aware of his “entirely

senseless life” (66), he leaves the village and meets same ferryman who once

takes him into the village and said to him, “one can learn much from a river”

(40). With the ferryman’s advice, Siddhartha starts to listen to the river, and

discovers many answers in the lesson of life within the flowing essence of water.

“The river has come holy”(86) to Siddhartha. Siddhartha realizes the importance

of every element in his life and that he has “to sin in order to live again” (78).

With ferryman’s advice, Siddhartha have become the “new Siddhartha” (81),

who “learned to listen with a still heart, with a waiting open soul, without

passion… desire… judgment… [and] opinions” (87). Never had it been so clear

to Siddhartha how his life as a Samana is similar to his life as business man;

although Siddhartha practices sacrifice in one life and greed in the other, both
lives involve sufferings because of his arrogant pride. “Siddhartha was obsessed

by his goal, each one suffering”(109). In the river, Siddhartha finally sees the

unity of everything flowing in “continuous steam of faces” (121). Siddhartha

hears “the voice of Being of perpetual Becoming” (88) and realizes “how closely

related passion is to death” (65). Here the author emphasizes the similarity

between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’, through the capitalization (punctuation).

Everything is transitory and connecting. Siddhartha now sees all the answers so

lucidly in the tranquil unity of the river. Through his long journey, Siddhartha

travels a complete cycle through the extremes of abandonment as a Samana and

the greed as a businessman, and finally discovers the underlying truth of death

and rebirth in the flowing river. The narrator’s contact with the sea also marks

the significant realization of character development. Similar to that of

Siddhartha, the narrator’s relationship with his woman eventually comes to an

end (only that this time it ends not because of realization but because of the

narrator’s insanity). The narrator is forced to abandon his only relationship with

the world. He becomes more and more depressed because his “luck was gone”

[188]. Towards the end of the text, the narrator is at the lowest point of his life.

The money the chief has given him is used up, and he is permanently chased out

of the landlady’s apartment; the narrator becomes “extremely hungry” [213]. The

narrator “sank every time, sank further, sank to [his] knees” [223], in the middle
of the busy city of Christiana. His “out-of-place pride” [211] is lowered, as the

narrator realizes that “a man can die…from too much pride” [227]. In his

hopeless journey, he finally goes against his pride by asking the cake seller for

the cake he “paid her in advance” [229]. The narrator “almost gobbled down the

last cake of them all” [230], while “staring at the Copegoro ship”[231]. Realizing

the futility of living in the city, the narrator knows that the sea is the last and

only option for his survival. Consequently, the narrator finally departs to the sea

as he says goodbye to Christiania, yet with “brightness” [232] in his heart. Note

that the sea and river are motifs for hope in both the Siddhartha and Hunger. The

narrator views the sea as an escape from helplessness, and Siddhartha views the

river as the way to enlightenment.

In the journeys, Siddhartha and the narrator suffers from starvation and

abandonment of the outside world. Both characters then become obsessed in the

internal journeys they take to learn the arts and pleasures of love from women.

Finally, Siddhartha and the narrator reach the point of a change of perception

and travel across the river and the sea with hearts full of hope. Life is a journey;

we experience sufferings (starvation), illusions (infatuation), and realizations

(change) throughout our life-time-voyage in the river or the sea, where one trip

can determine the beginning, or the end.
- The narrator in this essay is used in reference to the protagonist in
Hunger, by Knut Hamsun.
- The page references for the quotation from Siddhartha, by Hermann
Hesse are represented by (page), and the page references for the quotation
from Hunger, by Knut Hamsun are represented by [page].

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