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Herman Hesse

Siddhartha Chapter 1 Summary

  • The novel opens with this guy named Siddhartha in ancient India. He and his best friend Govinda belong to the elite Brahman caste, which is like the ancient India equivalent of being born into the Hilton family.
  • Siddhartha is the Golden Boy of his community: men want to be him and women want to be with him.
  • Even though Siddhartha participates in the holy sacrifices, meditation practices, and discussions of the adult Brahman, he’s not satisfied. He seeks enlightenment (otherwise known as Inner Peace), and feels that he has learned all he can from his teachers and books.
  • In times like this, meditation under the banyan tree is the only solution.
  • The Siddhartha and Govinda sit and meditate.
  • At dinnertime, Govinda gets up, but Siddhartha remains deep in contemplation. He reflects on the word "Om," which means "the completion." It is the word that concludes all Brahman prayers.
  • He’s thinking about a group of Samanas (wandering ascetics) who once came into his town.
  • He leaves the banyan tree and tells his parents about his new career path.
  • As soon as Siddhartha tells his father about his plans to become a Samana, his father gets upset and leaves the room.
  • Siddhartha remains in the room, standing in the same position.
  • The following morning, Siddhartha is still standing there.
  • His father recognizes Siddhartha’s determination, and gives the young man permission to go.
  • We call this the traumatic version of leaving for college, and by "college" we mean, "wandering around with no food for weeks on end."
  • Siddhartha meets up with Govinda and they leave to find the ascetics.

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