Siddhartha is the novel's protagonist. He is the Everyman with whose quest for enlightenment we are meant to identify. Siddhartha begins the novel convinced that a life of spiritual exercise and contemplation will led him to Nirvana. Realizing the inadequacy of such a life, he turns to a worldly, hedonistic life, which he also finds lacking. Eventually, Siddhartha successfully synthesizes the lessons of thought and the lessons of the senses and attains enlightenment.
Govinda is Siddhartha's childhood friend. He is a foil to Siddhartha, serving as a benchmark for the latter's progress toward enlightenment. Govinda spends part I of the novel with Siddhartha and then leaves to follow the Buddha. He reappears at points of transition in Siddhartha's life, and is with Siddhartha at the novel's end to learn his wisdom.
Goatama, or the Buddha
Goatama, his first name is Siddhartha, is the historical founder of Buddhism. Although Siddhartha does not follow Goatama as Govinda does, Goatama is the ideal toward which Siddhartha strives. Goatama's presence also highlights the importance of Buddhism and Indian religion/philosophy generally to the novel.
Kamala is the courtesan whom Siddhartha meets as he embarks on his worldly life. She teaches Siddhartha the art of love and represents the edifying aspect of a life of sensuous satisfaction. Kamala bears Siddhartha a son who appears late in the novel.
Vasuveda is the ferryman with whom Siddhartha lives for the last third of the novel. He is a reticent and uneducated man, but he is an excellent listener and teaches Siddhartha through example. Most notably, Vasuveda teaches Siddhartha to listen to the wisdom of the river, a wisdom which leads both Vasuveda and Siddhartha to enlightenment.
Kamaswami is the merchant for whom Siddhartha works while living in town. It is from the clever though impatient Kamaswami that Siddhartha learns how to conduct business and concern himself with money and material goods.
Young Siddhartha is Siddhartha's son. He lives with his father by the river when his mother Kamala dies. The boy is stubborn and proud, like his father, and refuses to accept the simple existence of a ferryman. Siddhartha loves the boy greatly and is despondent when he runs away. This love represents Siddhartha's last hurdle on his path to enlightenment.
Siddhartha Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Siddhartha is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.