Essay, Research Paper: Narcissus And Goldmund

Book Reports

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Throughout this book Hesse continuously explores the idea of the conflict
individuals experience when searching for their true identity. Narcissus and
Goldmund, two medieval men whose characters are metaphors for the underlying
theme of mans individual search for self and the human experience. Narcissus is
a monk firm in his religious and intellectual beliefs or so he thinks, and
Goldmund a youth hungry for knowledge and life experience. Narcissus the
intellect living a purely academic life yet when Goldmund becomes part of his
life, finds himself fighting the emotional part of his psyche. Goldmund is the
total opposite, an individual born to live life to its fullest yet fighting
those desires due to parental influences. The two men are diametrically
opposite, even their names are metaphoric – Narcissus the embodiment of pure
intellect and Goldmund who’s names translates as “Golden mouth” which
indicates a hunger for life and worldly experiences. The story of both
individuals are metaphors of the ways and degree that one can lead a life.
Narcissus has a hermetic existence in his ivory tower with his pure thought ,
reasoning and self sufficient loneliness for companions. He is closed off from
life in the monastery the acetic who is totally unaware of life’s cycles.
Goldmund’s so called vagabond lifestyle rich in experience, free spirit and
free choices. I feel here that it is important to Hesse that it be stressed that
the extreme of any life style such as in this story is actually dangerous to the
individual, and according to Hesse himself ( Comments from a conversation with
Rudolf Koester) “the development to become a personality with privilege to
think, feel, and act independently is the primary responsibility of the
individual. Extremes such as a complete withdrawal into a hermetically sealed
ego is as dangerous as the individual who succumbs to the allure of conformity
while yielding to pressure. The individual must establish a balance between the
two forces” I found it quite interesting that two men are total opposites and
yet could be so connected to each other. As Hesse shows in this book each is in
the minds of the other throughout their separate lives. This is enforced for
example when Goldmund is carving a statue of John the Baptist only to see that
the face that he has carved is that of Narcissus’. Maybe the two men have one
thing in common in that they are both living lives that are quite extreme, which
was the entire focus that Hesse wanted for this book.

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