Conflict exists when two people wish to carry out acts which are mutually inconsistent. It can be defined as a serious disagreement or a long-lasting struggle between two or more people or it can also be termed as the struggle between two or more people on which the action in a work of literature depends. Conflict exists when two people wish to perform acts which are mutually inconsistent. In literature, conflict is something that can be seen in many texts. Various literary works have characters undergoing this crisis, such as Hamlet, in one of the greatest plays in the world by William Shakespeare. It has Prince Hamlet as a protagonist and contains a multitude of conflicts. Hamlet has conflicts almost with everyone such as his mother, step-father, lover and many more. Unambiguous examples of literary works which have conflict as one of their major aspects, and with which I will deal in this essay are Hermann Hesse's 'Siddhartha' and 'Oedipus Tyrannus' by Sophocles.
There are various kinds of conflict, primarily, internal and external conflicts. Internal conflict can be defined as the struggle that takes place in a character's mind. It is basically the character dealing with his or her, own mixed feelings which are neither visual nor tangible. It is often referred to "Man Vs Himself" or the struggle or tension within one's head. However, external conflict is a struggle or a disagreement between a character and the outer forces, where the character may have to face outer forces through people in the same community or through the forces of nature.
Hermann Hesse, born in 1877, was a great literary figure of the twentieth century. 'Siddhartha,' first published in 1922, is a novel based on the early life of Buddha, inspired by the author's visit to India before the First World War. Sophocles is a Greek writer born in the 496 B.C. His books, written in the fifth century B.C, mainly consist of the treatment of the mind and the spirit.
'Siddhartha' by Hermann Hesse talks about a young Brahmin boy who is not satisfied with the knowledge he has gained from the learned men and his father. Siddhartha is disturbed by his comfortable life and the harsh reality around, therefore he sets his mind on to attain salvation and the deepest meaning of life through enlightenment.
The protagonist in 'Siddhartha' is Siddhartha himself. The major conflict in the entire novel is the internal search of Siddhartha and his entire journey in order to attain enlightenment. Siddhartha undergoes many phases of life until he attains his main goal that is the salvation. Siddhartha and Govinda are the best of friends. Siddhartha plans to leave his hometown due to his disturbed mind and the harsh reality around. Siddhartha departing his father shows that he turned his back to religion that he was brought up with. As they are very close both of them leave their home town and join the group of Samanas. Siddhartha confirms his journey as the "true profession of a man is to find himself". Samanas are monks who practise renunciation and they live through difficult conditions during which they keep themselves calm throughout, for instance, they fast for weeks at a stretch. Siddhartha goes through all that the Samanas go through, but still he cannot find enlightenment. As he later hears about Gautama Buddha his whose teachings many people find effective he decides to leave the Samanas and go to the Buddha. After hearing the teachings of Buddha, Govinda believes it would lead him to enlightenment and so he stays with the people of Buddha. However, Siddhartha does not believe in it and cannot find it effective, so he travels to find salvation.
He later on crosses the river beside which he meets Vasudeva, the ferryman. His next meeting is with Kamala, with whom he spends years. Siddhartha is now the total opposite of the Samanas; he becomes rich and deals with great knowledge on lust and love, as Kamala teaches him physical love and Kamaswami teaches him to gamble in business. In the later stages, he overcomes his conflict between the spiritual and bodily needs and he realises that he had lost his path and that he should continue his journey towards the right path. As he continues his journey he loses his path and finds himself beside a river. He then meets the ferryman again and stays with him, where he learns a lot from the river and the ferryman.
Later Kamala and Siddhartha meet coincidentally but she is bitten by a poisonous snake and so, before she dies, she gives her son to him to take care of. Siddhartha is overjoyed as he has a son, but after a few days the son leaves his father, due to which Siddhartha is overwhelmed by sorrow, but he moves on with his journey. Finally Siddhartha overcomes his internal conflict from the learning gained from Vasudeva and the river, following which he acquires enlightenment. As he learns from the river, Vasudeva leaves and so Siddhartha stays at the river and he becomes the next ferryman. The entire story deals with the internal conflict and the struggle that it takes Siddhartha to overcome and find enlightenment. There are different stages and phases that Siddhartha undergoes and these help him in his journey.
In 'Oedipus Tyrannus' too, there are many conflicts. The major conflict is between Oedipus and Creon. This conflict arises when Creon brings the reason of plague in Thebes. Oedipus then calls upon the blind man. Oedipus thinks that it is Creon, who sent the blind man. Due to this there is a major conflict as people think that Oedipus has killed the old King Laius. Teiresias, the blind Prophet, tries to tell him the truth and make him understand the reasons for the plague in the city. This is where one of the major conflicts occurs:
OEDIPUS: "Was this your trick - or Creon's?"
TERESIAS: "No, not Creon's. No, Oedipus. You are destroying yourself."
This is the conversation between Oedipus and the blind Prophet, when Oedipus thinks Creon is trying to play a play a plot on him as Teiresias blames Oedipus for the plague in Thebes. This leads to both internal and external conflict as he has many thoughts, worries, fears and instincts. In the later stage, the conflict between Oedipus and Creon becomes even more serious and it continues. Later on, when Creon is speaking to the Chorus, Oedipus asks Creon to leave to kingdom as Oedipus thinks that Creon is the main reason for all this. Their verbal conflict leads makes the issue look bigger. In 'Oedipus Tyrannus' the inner conflict lead to verbal conflict.
At a later stage, Oedipus builds up another conflict with the Shepherd. As he tries to tell the same thing which Teiresias wanted to tell, he gets really wild at him which again leads to a verbal conflict. However, later on he accepts whatever the shepherd tells him regarding his identity increasing his mental anguish and conflict. His mother-wife commits suicide which becomes really painful for Oedipus. The reason for Jocasta's committing suicide was the shame Jocasta experienced on knowing the truth. The fact that Oedipus knows the truth intensifies her mental conflict which leads to her suicide. I personally think that this was one of the main reasons that lead to many other conflicts within Oedipus and between Oedipus and the other characters in the play. Oedipus's internal conflict leaves him confused and the conflict within him remains unresolved.
Therefore these are the conflicts between the two male protagonists. While comparing the protagonists' conflicts in both these books, one realises that the conflicts arise due to various reasons. In 'Siddhartha' the conflicts arise because his wishes do not come true: he wished to attain salvation but could not but until at the end when he achieves it. Siddhartha goes through a number of phases, during which he lands up travelling on the evil path too. When he goes through all this he faces many conflicts. However, in 'Oedipus Tyrannus' conflicts arise mainly due to misunderstandings and the attempt to avert the consequences predicted by oracles at various times. The outcomes of the different conflicts in 'Siddhartha' is success as he attains salvation even though he goes through a lot of problems, whereas in 'Oedipus Tyrannus' the outcome of all those conflicts is tragic as he blinds himself and sends himself into exile. Therefore, Oedipus ends up being a failure following the conflict.
- "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse, Rupa publications.
- "Oedipus Tyrannus", Page 10 by Sophocles
- http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Samana/id/560730, downloaded on 22 December, 2009
- http://www.powerpoint-search.com/on-siddhartha-by-hermann-hesse-ppt.html, download on 27 January, 2010
World Literature COMPARATIVE STUDY
- Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha"
- http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Samana/id/560730, downloaded on 22 december,2009
- Oedipus Tyrannus, Page 10 by Sophocles,