Narcissus & Goldmund Essay, Research Paper

Narcissus & Goldmund, by Herman Hess, contains a distinct cyclical

structure. This structure is contributed to through characters, themes,

ideas, times, and places. Each of these elements facilitate the

development of an organized, creative work, delving deep into the human

psyche to reveal that both Narcissus and Goldmund are players in the

same game.

There are three separate cycles present in the novel. The first cycle

occurs during the first year or two after Goldmund has left Mariabronn.

It concludes with Goldmund witnessing a woman giving birth. He sees in

her face the face of all of the women he has ever been with, and this

connection between love and birth purges him of the sterile passion he

felt for Lydia. Characters in this cycle, almost exclusively women, are

seen as objects. They are erotic, sensual, and physical, but nothing

else. They have no dimension beyond that of a sexual outlet for

Goldmund s blind passions. There is an impression of a transience present

in the mother-world, manifested in Goldmund s many relationships. This

is demonstrated most clearly through Lise, when, after she and Goldmund

make love together, returns to her home for the night. This happens with

other characters as well, most of them having husbands to return to, and

Goldmund feels pain because of this knowledge. All of the meetings

between Goldmund and his lovers occur at night, and bears a strong

relationship with nature, specifically, animals, trees, and plants. As

the cycle continues, Goldmund experiences death as well as life,

demonstrated by his killing Victor over a gold coin. Ideas presented

within this cycle include the need for commitment. As Goldmund was

before a spring lover, he is now a hunted murderer, but he does not at

this point in the novel, realize that death, equated with the season of

winter, are elements of the mother world.

The second cycle beings after Goldmund witnesses the woman giving birth.

In this cycle, Goldmund sees death and decay, and the beauty present in

each. From Niklaus statue, Goldmund begins to see the blending of beauty and pain, and he decides to pursue the world of art, under Niklaus. Goldmund sees in art a blending of the mother and father world. The characters Goldmund comes in contact in this cycle give a definite image of pain and death. This is exemplified in the plague scene, wherein Goldmund comes to terms with death, and understands how it transcends, as art does, the mother and father worlds. Ideas presented in this cycle concern the Eve-mother, whose face represents all of the women Goldmund has ever known, and the principle which unites them all together. There is a complete range of characteristics in this cycle, including moth love, bliss and birth as well as cruelty, decay, and death. Time and place play an important role in this scene, especially in the Plague episode where everything was hurried, and then Goldmund lived with Robert and Lene outside the city in a house together while the Plague killed many people that remained in the town.

In the third and final cycle, Goldmund experiences a relationship with

Agnes. On the first day he meets her, he experiences his greatest

exctasy, but on the second day, her husband finds him and sentences him

to death. Only through Narcissus does Goldmund escape with his life. He

returns to Niklaus, but finds him to be dead. Characters in this section

are more spiritual than physical, as Niklaus aged, worn daughter, as

well as Agnes. Goldmund finishes a full spectrum of human experiences,

but only after the Agnes-episode. In this cycle, ideas such as everything

being transitory are explained, as well as the need for Goldmund to

create something concrete with his life, something that will outlast him.

Time was important here, as it played a role in Goldmund s capture.

Place was important as well, in regard to his meeting Agnes in the open

fields, and his leaving for his final adventure. The book concludes with

Goldmund dying as Narcissus watched. Goldmund s final revelation to

Narcissus was that in order to die, you must first have had to live, and

living meant transcending both the mother world and the father world. In

death, Goldmund has surpassed Narcissus, because Narcissus will have to

someday die as well.

Narcissus & Goldmund, by Herman Hess, contains a distinct cyclical

structure. This structure is contributed to through characters, themes,

ideas, times, and places. These elements help to present an intricate

and carefully laid portrayal of the human psyche and the transcendence

of the mother and father world.


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