Hermann’s Hesse’s novel Siddhartha and The Guide by R.K. Narayan both portray protagonists or rather main characters who somehow grow and go through a transformation throughout their story. When we first meet Siddhartha, he is a respected member of the Brahman caste, however, he becomes a Samana, and goes on a journey with the goal of becoming enlightened. Raja on the other hand, is a con artist who’s in the merchant or working class in India. Although he is a con artist and an overall seemingly seedy character, his transformation is arguably more humbling than Siddhartha’s as he receives help from the community around him, and surprisingly becomes humbler and more enlightened spiritually. Siddhartha and Raja are both flawed in their own ways, although, they do both transform in such profound ways throughout the story and in some ways show that they have found some sense of enlightenment.
Siddhartha’s in the beginning of the story is a Brahman, or the highest caste in Hinduism in India, which represents God and is known as the priest caste. However, as the story goes on, he is dissatisfied and wants to venture out the caste system, so he becomes a Samana. This is where I noticed Siddartha’s peak in his transformation because since he is a young man, he doesn’t know much about romance and love, and he ends up temporarily giving up his desires for sex and materialistic pleasures to become a Samana. This is not the case for the whole novel of course, because the next transformation into finding himself is when he meets Kamala, a prostitute who is used to wealthy clients, and Siddhartha, although he desires her, does not fit the part. This is when I saw that he gives up part of his quest of ignoring desire and with that decides to work and make money to win Kamala over. I find this part of the transformation interesting since he seemingly gets bored with Kamala after he fathers her child out of wedlock, and of course it is then when he decides he wants to continue his path to enlightenment. This is when I saw that Siddhartha, although he holds good intentions with his journey through enlightenment, he is a flawed man and is not the perfect holy figure he was once portrayed as. However, in the very end of Siddhartha’s journey to enlightenment when Govinda unknowingly meets up with him again, the two share a beautiful connection. Their embrace is described as: “Deeply he bowed, bowed to the very earth, before the one sitting there motionless, whose smile reminded him of everything he had ever loved in all his life, everything that had ever, in all his life, been dear to him and holy” (Hesse 157). This embrace to me sounds hopeful and liberating. Even though Govinda doesn’t know this is his best friend, he feels a spiritual connection and in turn so does Siddhartha. Just how Raja doesn’t go through his journey and transformation alone, neither does Siddhartha.
Raja’s journey begins as a tour guide who scams people. He is not an innocent soul as he makes many questionable decisions throughout his story. Aside from being a con artist, he desires a married woman. I found this slightly similar to Siddhartha’s almost sinful desire for Kamala since both women are sort of unavailable to marry. However, Raja’s biggest transformation comes with the community who mistakes him as a spiritual guru after he gets out of prison. Although he continues being a con artist while going along with it, he gains so much respect from the community. I realized how strong his influence was on the villagers when he finally confessed to Velan, and Velan still believed in him even saying: “I’ll go back to the village to do my morning duties…And I’ll never speak a word of what I have heard to anyone” (Narayan 214). This is when I noticed perhaps Raja even begins to believe himself, when he sees he has developed guidance from these loyal villagers. This made me question if this is why he goes on to do the fast, because in the end when he believes he has brought the rain, he starts to really believe his spiritual abilities like Velan and the others do as well. I found his last words to actually become more meaningful to me personally in the movie when he says: “Velan, its raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up my legs” (Narayan 226). In the movie, it is not visibly raining, but I still feel as though he believed in himself, just as the villagers did.
- Narayan, R. K. The Guide. Penguin Books, 2006.