Looking At Sterotypical Traits In Siddhartha And Oedipus English Literature Essay

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For centuries, men have been acknowledged as the most superior members in the society. They have been called the 'decision makers' or 'leaders' for their physical prowess and strength. They have dominated the women for ages; however, all men are not the same. Their attitudes vary and this has been seen very commonly. Men do not merely give hardships but they also give many beautiful moments to the people around them. They work, suffer, enjoy and do everything possible to become pillars strong enough to support everyone. The way they have been portrayed in literature differs from writer to writer.

Siddhartha, a German book translated into English, is the story of a young man named Siddhartha, who was in search of self realization. "Siddhartha had begun to feel the seeds of discontent within him." [1] Like all men who are generally interested in gaining knowledge, Siddhartha was not satisfied with the knowledge that he had gained from his father and other learned men and so he decided to leave his village. He was a man who wanted to face reality.

On being disillusioned by the life of penance among the Samanas, Siddhartha decided to embark on a life free from meditation and the spiritual quests that he had been pursuing. A friendly ferryman helped him cross the river to go to the city. In the city he found a beautiful courtesan named Kamala. Siddhartha thought that Kamala was the one who could take him into the world of love, but Kamala would not unless he proved that he could fit into the material world. Siddhartha procured a job with a merchant named Kamaswami and started to master the skills of a merchant and became successful. Here Siddhartha took up the challenge to prove that he could fit into the material world, which shows the common character trait of a man who wants to prove his worth. He slowly came to know that the material world would not lead him to the road of enlightenment which he had been searching for and so he decided to leave behind everything and go in search of enlightenment and wished to become somebody new in his own way.

On his way to adopt a new path he met the ferryman whom he had met years ago and started living and working with him. Vasudeva the ferryman led him along his path, that of gaining inner peace listening to the river. One day Kamala approached the ferry with her son to visit Gautama Buddha who was dying. When she died of a snake bite, Siddhartha had a revelation, that is, he said, "Just as the water of the river flows into the ocean and is returned by a rain, all forms of life are interconnected in a cycle without a beginning or end." [2] Siddhartha had now learned the secret of the river. Siddhartha started listening to the river and experienced the spiritual enlightenment which he had not known and had been in search of. Vasudeva retired to the forest. One day Govinda met Siddhartha and Govinda asked Siddhartha to teach him what he knew and Siddhartha asked him to kiss his forehead from which the vision of unity that Siddhartha had experienced was communicated instantly to Govinda. Eventually, hence, like a typical man, by dint of his perseverance, Siddhartha gained what he wanted.

Oedipus Tyrannus by Sophocles is about a prophecy by Apollo which stated that King Laius would give birth to a child (son) who would kill his own father and marry his own mother. King Laius responded to it by getting the ankle of his son pierced and abandoning him. The man who took the child to abandon him felt pity for the child and gave it to a shepherd. The shepherd took the child to the King of Corinth, that is, King Polybus who did not have a child. He adopted the child as he did not have any. The child grew up and unfortunately came to know about the prophecy, from a drunkard. He left Corinth and went to Delphi to find the truth about the prophecy. On his way to Delphi, he met King Laius and his soldiers and had a fight with them where he killed King Laius and his soldiers except a servant who escaped. He reached Thebes and freed the people from the Sphinx and married his mother Jocasta. The prophecy by Apollo comes true. A messenger came to Thebes with good and bad news. He found Oedipus and gave him the good news that Oedipus had become the king and the bad news was that his father Polybus had died. The messenger told Oedipus that Polybus was not his real father. Oedipus felt curious to know who his actual father was and called for the man who escaped the killing. When the shepherd and the servant were called, the truth that Oedipus had killed his own father was revealed. Oedipus accepted it and took the banishment and the city was freed from the plague.

In Oedipus Tyrannus we see that the male protagonist, Oedipus was very stubborn but did not have control over his emotions. His uncontrolled emotions also led him to everlasting misery and he blinded himself. His curiosity to know the truth regarding Laius's death only led him to punish himself. His stubbornness to know the truth carries the plot of the play forward creating a lot of suspense throughout, along with many elements of foreshadowing. In Oedipus Tyrannus the male protagonist unlike Siddhartha did not use his beloved ones to attain his goal. He only used people placed under him to get the truth. As Oedipus was the king he had control over everyone and ordered people to get his job done and nobody could object to his orders. It was very ironic because he did not have control over himself.

In Siddhartha, the protagonist is very focused on his goal to seek self-realization, and his goal is so powerful that it does not bring in any emotions. When he leaves his family and friend while moving towards his goal we see the contrasting nature of both the protagonists: while Siddhartha is stubborn but without emotions, Oedipus who is also determined to find the truth is very emotional.

In Siddhartha, the protagonist acts stubborn while seeking permission from his father to seek self-realization and while leaving the Samanas. In Siddhartha, the protagonist uses people as steps towards salvation. He first uses Kamala and gains knowledge regarding love. Siddhartha meets Kamaswami from whom he gets to know what takes place in real life, that is, the material world. The main unconditional support which Siddhartha gets is from Govinda where Govinda becomes his first follower and this is when Siddhartha grows confident that he can achieve his goal. In the first part, Siddhartha has good control over Kamala and Kamaswami, but in the second part, we can observe that in spite of conquering everything he cannot gain control over his own child which is again similar to Oedipus' predicament.

Despite Oedipus and Siddhartha being male protagonists they have different character traits as well. Oedipus is a man of emotions and is very close to and concerned about his family. This can be seen when he tells Creon to take care his daughters when he is banished from the country. Siddhartha, on the other hand had no link with his family which is observed in the fact that he left them when he went in search of enlightenment. Oedipus is a man of responsibility as he had to take care of the state as well as his family whereas Siddhartha did not have any responsibility until he had to take care of his son after Kamala's death. Siddhartha is focused on a goal, that is, to get enlightenment unlike Oedipus whose goal is to know the truth about Laius's death. Both the protagonists are logical thinkers, for example, Siddhartha left the Samanas concluding that he could not gain enlightenment through penance when the oldest Samana had not gained it. Oedipus too drew conclusions by his intellect; for instance, when his wife Jocasta told him about the place where King Laius was murdered, he began to inquire about the killing and unfortunately trapped himself.

Eventually, both these protagonists, goaded by their typical male characteristics, found what they sought, though ironically, one experienced peace and tranquility by this pursuit while the other suffered undying misery in its wake. More research needs to be undertaken to assess what it was that brought about these differences in the outcomes.

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