Is Siddhartha a hero? Sure, Siddhartha is the protagonist of the book, Siddhartha, but is he a hero? His entire story is based upon the Hero’s Journey, with many renewals in between, but is he someone to look up to and root for? I would not say so, as he’s seen to be horrible to others, despite his constant rebirths, and he seems to not feel sorrow for their downfalls, just his own. He’s emotionless, even when others appreciate him.
Simply put, Siddhartha does not seem to carry much empathy toward others, even his friends. Kamaswami, Siddhartha’s friend, and his business suffered when Siddhartha entered the scene, as he refused to take responsibility for his actions. In addition, when Kamaswami confronted him about his need to be more responsible, Siddhartha refused to listen and change and only talked about how Kamaswami should not scold him for being irresponsible. Siddhartha only cares about his uncomfortable situation, and does not feel the least bit of remorse for Kamaswami’s decline in business due to his actions.
Of course, this should make sense, as this section is in the beginning half of the book. If Siddhartha is based off of the Hero’s Journey, it would make sense that at this point, he would not be the perfect character that a hero symbolizes. However, it seems that Siddhartha still does not see any growth throughout the rest of the book.
Siddhartha’s habit of callousness does not stop there, as even when he lets people in and shows the slightest bit of friendship, he ends up leaving them at the end, as shown with Govinda, his best friend. In Kamala’s case, it was much worse, as she did not even receive any parting words, just Siddhartha’s baby that she had to care for by herself. This further demonstrates the disparity between Siddhartha’s mindset and the empathy he has yet to learn.
Still, at this point, Siddhartha has not completed his journey for which growth would occur. After all, even though he left Kamala with his unborn son, he eventually finds custody of the child and seems to try his best to take care of him. He tries to integrate little Siddhartha into a ferryman’s ways, attempts to teach him his mistakes so that he does not repeat them, and feels sorrow for when he leaves. This is all true, and perhaps Siddhartha has learned empathy at this point in the story.
However, although well intended, Siddhartha still has a negative effect on the people around him. His son, albeit spoiled before, is now completely miserable and full of guilt every time he interacts with his father. As such, it is reasonable that Siddhartha Sr. would go to Vasudeva, an elder ferryman, for advice. What is unreasonable is that he seems to ignore this advice, thinking that his method of parenting is still better, and refuses to integrate criticism into his parenting style until Siddhartha Jr. runs away from him. Sure, Siddhartha has good intentions, but this seems to be akin to putting up a scarecrow to fight off bandits. The farmer tries their best to fend off their enemy, but it proves to be ineffective. The path to hell is laden with good intentions.
Why does this matter? This story props up Siddhartha as a hero, someone to look up to and relate to. However, upon further inspection, his gilded armor is removed and we see him as the false idol that he truly is. This could be used in many aspects of life, where not judging a book by the cover may uncover a different view. Sure, the highly ragged upon book may be good to your tastes, but perhaps, amid the hype and credit given, another book may not be something else.
To be more blunt, things aren’t always as they are portrayed. Be wary, but also be open minded, in case reality differs from belief.