by Herman Hesse
Character Role Analysis
Kamaswami is Siddhartha’s mentor in business. Passionate about his trade as a merchant, Kamaswami does his best to incite a similar passion in Siddhartha, but fails. At one point Kamaswami says to Siddhartha: "I taught you everything you know!" and Siddhartha says, "You taught me prices and interest rates, but not how to think." There are many figures in the novel who fail to teach Siddhartha, but none fail quite as spectacularly as Kamaswami.
As a high-priced and famous courtesan, Kamala is extremely well-versed in lovemaking. She passes on her knowledge to Siddhartha, who comes to her as a willing student. Kamala is not a love interest because Siddhartha seeks her out specifically as a teacher in the arts of love. While their relationship can also be characterized as a friendship, its dominant classification is that of teacher and student.
While Siddhartha’s other mentors teach knowledge, Vasudeva is able to guide Siddhartha to wisdom. He teaches Siddhartha a practical trade – that of ferrying a boat – but he also teaches Siddhartha how to listen to the river’s wisdom. It’s important to note that Vasudeva merely helps Siddhartha access the river’s wisdom, rather than dogmatically trying to tell Siddhartha what the river has to offer. As a guide/mentor, Vasudeva is more of an enabler than a teacher – more a librarian than a tutor.