Herman Hesse and Henrik Ibsen both make use of nature and its elements in their works Siddhartha and A Doll’s House. Nature is used in imagery and symbolism. The stories have lot of similarities. Its only because of the differences in location of the stories do the objects of nature differ.
Herman Hesse makes use of the two symbols of nature, which are bird and water. The river is very significant in the story since Siddhartha learns a lot from it and gains enlightenment from it. When Siddhartha decides to leave the Buddha he realises that he is neither a Samana nor a Brahmin. In the novel Siddhartha, “Siddhartha shivers
inwardly like a small animal, like a bird or a hare, when he realizes how alone he is.”. The bird symbolises Siddhartha’s soul.
The bird is referred to again just when Siddhartha is about to leave Kamala. Kamala would keep a songbird in a small golden cage. After Siddhartha woke up from his dream and realised that the songbird was not singing he went to the cage and saw that the songbird was dead. That time Siddhartha was a rich merchant and lived a rich life. The bird symbolises Siddhartha’s soul, which is trapped in a cage of materialism, corruption and wealth. Since the cage is golden it represents wealth. So Siddhartha leaves Kamala. His soul is reborn and is free from its sins. Kamala does the same to her songbird and this symbolises how Siddhartha’s soul is free from sins. Now Siddhartha is free to work towards his goal of Nirvana.
Another element of nature used is the nature. It symbolises the physical world around Siddhartha and his evolution through it. The first time it is referred to is when Siddhartha is a Samana and has just left the Buddha. He crosses the river and sees Kamala for the first time on the other side. The river is like a border which Siddhartha encounters as he changes from a Samana to a business man. He encounters the same river when he changes from a businessman to a wanderer, and then to a ferryman. The changes in his roles (wanderer to a ferryman) represent his spiritual life. The transition in which he changes from a Samana to a businessman is when his spirit begins to deteriorate. The transition in which he changes from a businessman to wanderer to a ferryman is when his spirit begins to recuperate.
The river also symbolises Siddhartha’s life. The river changes constantly and is still the same at all points. Even Siddhartha’s soul changes with change in his lifestyles. When Siddhartha is a Samana his soul enters the body of a fox. However it is his essence. So even though there are so many changes in his soul and lifestyle his soul still remains to be constant. These motifs are used to show Siddhartha’s connection with nature.
Henrik Ibsen also uses nature as a motif in his play, A Doll’s House. The difference between him and Hesse is that he uses multiple types of nature imagery to produce a single motif.
The motif is used to show how women were treated in society and the difficulties they had to undergo. Helmer symbolises the society’s norms and Nora represents the women in the society. In act 3 Nora tells Helmer that she had been tolerantly waiting for eight years to get something glorius. She refers to Helmer’s realization of her problems. Helmer is never able to conceive this. There is a huge gap between both of them since Helmer was always unable to understand Nora. This is why she leaves him in the end. She has always been his “skylark”. He pictures her flying carefree through life.
Helmer also refers to as his “singing bird”. Nora is supposed to be a beautiful bird which can sing really well but is trapped inside a cage. Ibsen uses this comparison that women are not treated equally in society as compared to men. They are given inferior statuses. They maybe as good as singing as a song bird but since they are trapped in cages they are not able to exploit their skills. Helmer expects Nora to obey everything he says. He does not let her have macaroons. So she has to have them behind his back. Nora loves Helmer a lot. When he was ill she was able to borrow a loan and help him but he was against it and so she had to do it deceivingly.
Helmer uses Nora to increase his prestige. When she tells him that she had taken out a loan he gets worried as he feels its against the societal expectations and so it would ruin his prestige. However when he realises the loan had been deactivated he calms down and changes back to normal. Nora becomes his “songbird” as before. He feels that she can conform to society’s expectations again.
Ibsen mentions the river. He describes its conditions. The river represents death. Ibsen describes the river as “black, cold and icy”. This is because of Nora’s state of mind. She wants to commit suicide in the river so as to escape from the debts. Till now Nora showed that she followed society’s norms. With her death it would symbolise and end to these norms.
Dr. Rank is a good friend of the Mr. and Mrs. Torvald. He is a close friend of Nora. He is dying due to an illness passed onto him from his father, due to his love for oysters. The oysters coming from the river would lead to the death of Rank.
Siddhartha and A Doll’s House both make use of motifs through imageries of nature. The motifs created by both the books differ. Siddhartha has a spiritual theme. It shows the culture of a far away land. A Doll’s House’s theme is to show the societal conventions and to show how women were treated at that time. This theme is relevant in today’s world because this happens in today’s world too.
Sutej Tilak Sharma