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Criticism of Siddhartha and Ceremony

In: English and Literature

Submitted By sulbhe
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1) Siddhartha- Hermann Hesse A) Archetypal Criticism: Hermann Hesse has incorporated numerous symbols, metaphors and allusions into his work to help the reader understand the story of Siddhartha better. Similarly, Archetypes are also present in this book. The main Archetypal character in the book is Siddhartha. He is a seeker who wants to experience a better, more authentic and more fulfilling life by achieving enlightenment. He fears being trapped and is true to his soul. For example, he leaves the Brahmins, the Samanas and Gotama Buddha in pursuit of more knowledge to fulfill his desire of gaining enlightenment. Similarly, Vasudeva is also another Archetypal character in the story. He serves as a counselor towards Siddhartha and is a role model to him. For example, in the chapter “the ferryman” Siddhartha surrenders to Vasudeva his entire self, even his clothes, in order to follow his example in leading a life of calm fulfillment and wisdom. Along with archetypal characters, archetypal symbols are also present in the book. The River is definitely the most influential archetypal symbol in the book. It represents the flowing of time and transitional phases of the life cycle. For example, whenever a great transition occurred in the book like when Siddhartha left Gotama Buddha and also when he abandoned his wealth he came to the river. When Siddhartha observed the river he learned that the river exists only in the present, it is everywhere at once, upstream, downstream, at the sea, and at the source. Life is the same way. Siddhartha realizes that his existence as a boy and his existence as an old man are not separate. Everything has its existence in the present. Therefore after combining the symbols and characters an archetypal situation arises in the book. This situation is the quest of Siddhartha to achieve enlightenment. Furthermore, “Om” is the only recurring image that I could notice in this book. Om is mentioned whenever Siddhartha takes a step closer to enlightenment. His first encounter with Om is in the chapter “The Brahmin’s son”, where he learns that it is easy to understand the meaning of Om but to fully embrace it is the hard part. Another example is when he hears Om coming from the river. In this case “Om” is signifying unity of all things. He hears this Om when he is on the riverbank thinking about suicide and when he is on Vasudeva’s boat. In addition, multiple themes also occur in the novel. One of the main themes is the need to be satisfied. Siddhartha is a smart and handsome young man but no matter what he does, he is not satisfied with his amount of knowledge. He wants to gain enough knowledge to be enlightened, and satisfied with his life. At one point in his Brahmin life, he questions the teachings of the Brahmin: "He lived a good life, his words were wise; fine and noble thoughts dwelt in his head - but even he, who knew so much, did he live in bliss, was he at peace?”. Another example is when Siddhartha chooses to become an ascetic and learn from the Samana’s. The reason why he does so is to satisfy his thirst of knowledge. Finally, these recurring patterns are the means by which we get to a closer understanding of the text. For example, the recurring image “Om”, every time it is mentioned, we know that Siddhartha is getting closer to enlightenment. Also, the recurring theme of satisfaction also plays a similar role. Whenever we learn that he is not satisfied we know that he has not reached enlightenment. Therefore, while reading the text these recurring patterns aids us in identifying the key moments which makes the text easier to interpret. B) New Criticism Hermann Hesse has incorporated many connotations in his book because of which much literary analysis can be done. Therefore, there are words in this book that are not familiar to us and need to be defined. Some of these words are equanimity, courtesan, tepid and ennui. These words are unfamiliar to most of the students reading the book and therefore providing there definitions would be a great aid in the comprehension of the text. On the other hand, Siddhartha has also incorporated allusions in his text. For example, the river is an allusion to the theme of unity. Also, the ferryman, Vasudeva, is an allusion to Buddha. Basically, this whole novel can be said to be an allusion to the story of Gautama Buddha. Many characters in the book resemble those in Buddha’s story as well. For example, The father of Siddhartha is similar to the father of Buddha, King Suddhodana, as they are both of high position in their respective society. These are some of the allusions present in the novel which emphasize the idea being presented by them. Numerous symbols and images are present in the novel. For example, the most common one is the river. It represents unity and life itself. The sounds of the river are the sounds of all living things and the fact that the water in it keeps cycling symbolizes the nature of time. Finally, having life and time symbolized in the same thing shows how the river is also unity of life and time. Another symbol is the ferryman, Vasudeva. He is the symbol of a guide to all those who seek enlightenment. Every person who seeks enlightenment encounters a mentor like Vasudeva. Even Buddha encountered an old wise man, whose name is unknown, helped him reach enlightenment. Vasudeva has within him the knowledge that Siddhartha is missing in order to reach enlightenment. Hermann Hesse has written Siddhartha in such a way that it expresses a religious tone. His descriptions are straightforward, using common images and simple words. For example, the first sentence of the book, "In the shade of the house, in the sunshine on the river bank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin's son, grew up with his friend Govinda". This style is the reason it gives a religious tone like that of the hindu religious book, Veda and Upanishads. The point of view being used in the novel is third person. For example in page 3, “But Siddhartha himself was not happy. Wandering along the rosy paths of the fig garden….” In this sentence the narrator follows Siddhartha most closely which evidently shows that the point of view is third person. Finally, all the elements of the novel come together and make the overall theme. The overall theme in Siddhartha is “The search for spiritual enlightenment”. The elements mentioned in the above paragraphs all work together to develop this theme. For example, the tone of the book keeps the readers in a religious mood. Then the allusion of Vasudeva to Buddha gives hints of enlightenment and finally the sounds of the river and the river itself show enlightenment. In this way these elements that are found in the text can be combined to develop the overall theme.

2) Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko

A) Marxist Essential Questions:

The work claims to represent the middle class of Native Americans. For example, the novel talks about the family surviving on agriculture and cattle’s. This suggests that they weren’t high in the society but in a stable position. Also, the description of the setting also suggests that they are of middle class. For example, “he tossed in the old iron bed, and the coiled springs kept squeaking”. This suggests that they did not have comfortable beds like that of the high class nor did they have rugs like that of the low class. In “Ceremony”, Silko reinforces a limited number of values. One of the values that stands out is that “time is circular”. She reinforces this value by cradling all the past, present and future events, ceremonies, beliefs and traditions of their culture into the story. For example, she keeps introducing flashbacks in the story which describes Tayo’s past. The reason why she does this is because the Native Americans believe that time is circular and not linear. Time is an important value in this novel because with the understanding of time Tayo is able to establish his identity and his purpose. This is shown when the narrator says,” The ride into the mountain had branched into all directions of time. He knew then why the oldtimers could only speak of yesterday and tomorrow in terms of the present moment: the only certainty; and this present sense of being was qualified with bare hints of yesterday and tomorrow...Rocky and I are walking across the ridge in the moonlight; Josiah and Robert are waiting for us. This night is a single night; and there has never been any other.”
In contrast, this novel subverts the values of modernization. For example, the whole novel consists of Tayo performing the ritual of cleansing. This shows that the characters in the novel are still in the past as they don’t want to take in modern beliefs. Another example is when Josiah got the book from the agriculture extension office and rejected it. He did not want to accept the modern strategies of agriculture but would rather stick to the good old ways. Therefore, modern values are subverted in the ceremony. In “The Ceremony”, there are lots of talks about the discrimination between whites and the Native American class. They are divided into two classes in the society and each one despises the other. For example, Tayo himself is half white and half native American which leads to him being excluded by his auntie. His auntie prefers Rocky over Tayo and tries to keep them as cousins rather than brothers. Another example is when we find out that Tayo’s mother was never accepted into the society and was almost chased out of the village by the officials for having an affair with a white man. So the characters in this novel represent either the native americans, whites or a mix. There is a lot of conflict between the characters of two different classes. This conflict is mostly shown between Tayo and Emo. Emo always despises Tayo and keeps bothering him. In the bar they usually end up fighting. Emo always wants to show Tayo that he is of a lower class than Emo and should stay that way. Also in the end of the story Emo spreads rumors of Tayo being crazy and gets the police and his friends to chase Tayo. Another example, of a conflict between classes is how Tayo’s auntie ignored him and preferred Rocky over him. So, the characters from different classes in this novel are mostly in conflict.

B) New Criticism

The title “Ceremony” portrays the main event that happens throughout the book. For example, the novel consists of Tayo going through a ceremony to get rid of his memories of the war and become social again. Also, the title also gives readers the impression that this is a book based on culture. The word “Ceremony” gives the readers a sense that the book contains old values and traditions. Therefore, the relationship of the title and the book becomes one that gives a glimpse of the content in the book.
Like most novels Leslie Silko has added many symbols to her novel as well. The main symbol is the Gallup Ceremonial. This ceremonial describes how the whites misunderstand the culture of Native Americans. For example, the Native Americans are paid for their dances only because it brings entertainment to the whites and not because of what it stands for. Therefore this ceremony was made by them for the sole purpose of entertainment ad with no specific ritual meaning. The author also uses the figure of speech, Flashback, in his novel. Flashbacks are scenes that are set in a time earlier than the main story. For example, “the memory would unwind into the last day when they had sat together, oiling their rifles in the jungle of some nameless Pacific Island”. This is a flashback of a moment he had with Rocky in the war. Such types of flashbacks can be seen throughout the novel.
The writing style and diction of Leslie Silko creates a dull or somber tone. This is mainly because of the mood and condition of the main protagonist. Tayo is a war veteran and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The painful memory he gets throughout the novel adds to this gloomy mood. The point of view in this novel is third person limited. We experience this story through the senses and thoughts of Tayo. For example, “The humid air turned into sweat that had run down the corporal’s face while he repeated his dream to them. That was the first time Tayo had realized that the man’s skin was not much different from his own.” The narrator here does not know how other people think so therefore it is a third person limited.
Within the text many tensions form between characters. One of these tensions is the one between Tayo and his auntie. In the text Auntie does not want to accept Tayo because of his lineage, being half native and half white. So, she tries to ignore him most of the time in family activities and she prefers Rocky over him. This tension creates a sense of exclusion within Tayo which makes his memories worse. Additionally, a certain paradox can also be interpreted. In the book Leslie Silko presents oral history and tradition as an integral part of the Native American culture. The importance of tradition and ritual being passed on to the next generation is stressed in their culture. Also, in their culture time is symbolized as a circle. This can be seen when Grandma says, “It seems like I already heard these stories before...only thing is, the names sound different”. In contrast American history is not as filled with culture, tradition and glory like that of the Native Americans yet classes in schools are filled with American history. It is paradoxical that the Native Americans have to work harder to preserve their culture from generation to generation.
Finally, all the elements in the text support each other to develop the overall them of Destructiveness of Contact between Cultures. For example, the symbol of the Gallup Ceremonial shows how Americans are ignorant of Native cultures. Also, the tone also plays a role in this because this destructive theme is presented in somber terms. The third person point of view helps us to experience this destructiveness though the protagonist’s senses. Moreover, the tensions between Tayo and his auntie is another example of the destructiveness of contact between cultures because it creates a divide between them. Therefore, in such ways the overall theme is developed by these elements.…...

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...Psychoanalysis & "The Yellow Wallpaper." The field of Psychoanalysis was pioneered by Sigmund Freud in the late 1800's. His work is highly debated to this day. Despite this, his theories are still widely accepted and have spawned their own form of criticism. If we apply Freud's theories to Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" we look into a world of what Freud would have called the hysterical. When Gilman wrote this piece she was trying to describe the "therapy" that she received for her hysterical spells years earlier. Freud's work or the "talking cure" was still not widely accepted to treat psychological problems. A psychoanalytic reading of Gilman's piece would lead us to see a woman who is most likely still haunted by her expiriences while under psychological duress. We can also see Perkins' opinion on the course of therapy that she received. If the woman was not mad before her complete and total separation from society her incarceration brought her there in short order. Through the use of Freudian theory we know that Perkins suffered greatly from her depression & suffered even more from her misdiagnoses. We can also surmise that though the womans movement of the late 19th century was in full swing one of the only forums that she had to vent her frustrations and problems was in her writing. Since the talking cure was yet to be realized as a viable resources for treating "hysterics" Gilman was left only with pen & paper to vent her concerns. It is also reasonable to...

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