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Religions and philosophy guides most people’s lives and helps them when they fall to evils. Voltaire and Hesse, who are the authors of Candide and Siddhartha, provide us their different perspectives of life’s path. Candide was written as a book that is more satirical of the Optimism and religion. After Candide gets kicked out of the paradise where his lover, Cunégonde, lives, the Bulgars let him have dinner with them and pay for him but then, they hit him because he doesn’t admire their King. “That’s what men are for, to help each other.” (Voltaire 23). Siddhartha has a different view that is more pessimistic. When Siddhartha ends up living by the river and is left by his son, he understands his father’s feelings when Siddhartha wanted to leave the house to find his own knowledge as his son left because of his anger. “And he recollected how, long ago, as a youth, he had compelled his father to let him join the penitents… Had not his father suffered the same sorrow over him that he was now suffering over his son? …? Was it not a comedy, a strange and stupid thing, this repetition, this running around in a disastrous circle?” (Hesse 71). These two books, Candide and Siddhartha, have two different views, but they share a major. All must find their inner self, and this knowledge can’t be taught by teachers.
In Candide, which was written during the Enlightenment period, Voltaire reveals what happened during this time through a satire of Candide’s philosophy. In Candide, we see that religions always say they do good things, but what they often do is the opposite like burning people, killing, and corrupting. Voltaire satirized Candide’s Optimism: “All is for the best in this world of our” (Voltaire 27). Voltaire satirizes all the social situations that Candide faces and his Optimism. When Candide, Pangloss, and the Anabaptist are on the ship, the ship is broken by a most terrible storm, people die, and the sailor is greedy and picks up anything that has worth, but Candide still believes that everything happens for the best. However, there is nothing good that happens to him after. In Candide, Voltaire shows Candide as a guy that just waits for luck, for something good to happen to him, but he doesn’t do anything to make it happen. However, at the end, Candide has his little farm where everyone has work to do even Cunégonde knows how to make cake. Candide also says: “I also know that we must go and work in the garden.” (Voltaire 143). Voltaire shows us that no matter how positive we are, we can’t just sit there and wait for something good to happen.
Otherwise, Hermann Hesse shows us different perspectives in Siddhartha of human suffering, desire, knowledge. The book’s perspective is more pessimistic. Buddhism is a religion in the book that connects to the main character. Siddhartha tries to end the suffering, desire, and achieve knowledge of the inner self, so he decided to leave his family to go with the samanas: “Tomorrow morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the samanas. He will become a samana.” (Hesse 5). Moreover, he thinks that no one can teach others to attain nirvana; no one can guide us, but our own self. He meets the Buddha and listens to him speak, but he still doesn’t follow the Buddha because he believes the Buddha can’t reach him to become nirvana. Although he wants to end suffering and desire, he is human so he falls from his goal when he meets Kamala, a beautiful courtesan. Siddhartha learns from Kamala the art of love, and then he learns to gamble, he learns to drink wine, and he learns to watch dancing girls. He loses his calmness, he loses his laugh when he loses the game, and he forgets his goal. At the end of the book, Siddhartha lives by a river, he becomes a ferryman, and he is left by his son as he left his own father.
What happens to Siddhartha when he lives with his son and when his son leaves him is the deepest suffering of Siddhartha’s whole life. When Siddhartha’s son lives with him, Vasudeva says to Siddhartha: “…I see that you are tormenting yourself. I see that you are grieved. My dear friend, your son is giving you worries, and he is giving me worries, too. Thing young bird is used to a different life. He did not, like you, run away from riches and the town out of disgust and surfeit; he had to leave all that behind against his will…” (Hesse 64). The boy is not like his father. The boy wants to live in a rich life and the boy has his own way to live, but the boy is the same as Siddhartha for wanting to leave his family to follow his own goals. Furthermore, when his son runs away from him, Siddhartha faces greater suffering: “So many people, so many thousands, possess this sweetest happiness – why not I? Even wicked people, even thieves and highwaymen, have children and love them, and are loved by them, only I do not.” (Hesse 69). The book shows us human suffering, desire, and knowledge. It also shows us some kind of Karma when Siddhartha’s son does the same thing that Siddhartha did to his father. This led to deeper understanding for Siddhartha, an awareness of life’s cycles, and unity between all lives.
In my opinion, I agree more with Hermann Hesse’s perspective in this book. No one can teach others what suffering is, no one can teach others how to end suffering, and no one can help others to attain the nirvana. Yes, they can teach others the skills, but people have to pass through the suffering in order to know them and end them. Nevertheless, what goes around comes around is what we expect in real life because whatever we do, we will get it back. If we do good things, we will get good things back, but otherwise, good will not come.
Candide and Siddhartha were written about human suffering and desire, but their perspectives are different because of the two writers’ cultural backgrounds. Candide is more satirical of the Optimism and religion, focusing on Western wars and greed for power. Meanwhile, Siddhartha is more a look at the rise of Buddhism. Voltaire’s message is: Work for your own goals. In the contrast, Hesse uses Siddhartha’s life to express human suffering and desire and related it to Buddhism’s philosophy “No desire, no suffering.” However, these books show what real human beings are. Greed, suffering, and desire are things that human beings always have, and these temptations pull us away from attaining a knowledge of self and discovering contentment.