The Effects of Society on the Individual's Quest for Divine Understanding

In the novels Invisible Man and Siddhartha, the protagonists find it necessary to completely isolate themselves from the influences of society in order to reach a stage of serene understanding, or "enlightenment." Both Siddhartha and the Invisible Man initially seek understanding through following accepted methods. Both, however, eventually find themselves disillusioned with society's techniques and choose to follow the outcasts of their respective civilizations. Despite the changes in their ways, both protagonists finally reach the conclusion that one must forge one's own path in order to reach divine understanding.

Siddhartha, son of the Brahman, was his family's prodigy and highly thought of within his community. He was active in religious sacrifices and other sacred practices and was seen as a future prince among the Brahmans. "He practiced... the art of contemplation, the duty of total concentration" (1). Despite all this, Siddhartha failed to be satiated by society's means: "Siddhartha had begun to nurture dissatisfaction within himself. He had begun to feel that his father's love, his mother's love, and also the love of his friend Govinda, would not always and for all time...

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