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Kirill Dmitriev
Kirill Dmitriev

The Contrast Between Reason and Passion in Narcissus and Goldmund

Narcissus and Goldmund: A Tale of Two Opposite Paths


Have you ever wondered what kind of life you should lead? Should you follow your reason or your passion? Should you seek stability or adventure? Should you be loyal to your duty or to your desires? These are some of the questions that the novel Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse explores through the lives of two contrasting characters.

Narcissus and Goldmund

What is Narcissus and Goldmund?

Narcissus and Goldmund is a novel written by Hermann Hesse, a German-Swiss author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. The novel was first published in 1930 and is considered one of his masterpieces. It is set in medieval Germany and tells the story of two friends who choose different paths in life: one becomes a monk and a scholar, while the other becomes a wanderer and an artist.

Who are the main characters?

The main characters are Narcissus and Goldmund, who meet as young boys at a cloister school. Narcissus is a brilliant and ascetic student who is destined to become a teacher and a leader in the church. He is rational, disciplined, and detached from worldly pleasures. Goldmund is a sensitive and artistic soul who is restless and dissatisfied with the monastic life. He is emotional, spontaneous, and drawn to beauty and love.

What are the main themes?

The main themes of the novel are the opposition and interplay between reason and passion, discipline and freedom, duty and desire, spirituality and sensuality, intellect and intuition, order and chaos, life and death. The novel explores how these dualities shape human existence and how they can be reconciled or integrated.

Narcissus: The Path of Reason and Discipline

How does Narcissus live his life?

Narcissus lives his life according to his reason and his faith. He devotes himself to studying, teaching, and serving the church. He follows a strict code of conduct and ethics that guides his actions and decisions. He values logic, clarity, and objectivity over emotions, ambiguity, and subjectivity. He seeks to understand the truth of God and nature through his intellect.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Narcissus's strengths are his intelligence, wisdom, leadership, and integrity. He is respected and admired by his peers and superiors for his knowledge and skills. He is able to solve complex problems and provide sound advice. He is loyal to his principles and his mission. He is also humble, compassionate, and generous towards others.

Narcissus's weaknesses are his rigidity, detachment, and isolation. He is sometimes too harsh on himself and others for their faults and failures. He is unable to express or appreciate his feelings and emotions. He is indifferent to the joys and sorrows of life. He is also lonely, as he has few friends and no family or lover.

How does he relate to Goldmund?

Narcissus relates to Goldmund as a friend, a mentor, and a counterpart. He recognizes Goldmund's potential and talent and encourages him to pursue his own path. He teaches him about philosophy, theology, and logic, but also learns from him about art, poetry, and intuition. He loves him as a brother, but also challenges him as a rival. He respects him as an equal, but also worries about him as a prodigal.

Goldmund: The Path of Passion and Adventure

How does Goldmund live his life?

Goldmund lives his life according to his passion and his curiosity. He leaves the cloister and wanders the world in search of new experiences and sensations. He follows his heart and his instincts that lead him to various adventures and dangers. He values beauty, love, and creativity over logic, rules, and conventions. He seeks to express himself through his art and his relationships.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Goldmund's strengths are his imagination, charisma, courage, and sensitivity. He is gifted and inspired by his artistic vision and skill. He is able to charm and attract people with his personality and appearance. He is brave and adventurous, willing to take risks and explore the unknown. He is also empathetic, kind, and generous towards others.

Goldmund's weaknesses are his impulsiveness, irresponsibility, and dissatisfaction. He is sometimes too reckless and careless with his actions and consequences. He is unable to commit or settle down with anyone or anything. He is always restless and unhappy with what he has. He is also tormented by guilt, fear, and death.

How does he relate to Narcissus?

Goldmund relates to Narcissus as a friend, a pupil, and a counterpart. He admires Narcissus's intellect and wisdom and seeks his guidance and approval. He learns from him about reason, discipline, and faith, but also teaches him about passion, freedom, and grace. He loves him as a brother, but also envies him as a rival. He needs him as an anchor, but also rebels against him as an authority.

Comparison and Contrast: The Two Paths in Harmony and Conflict

How do the two paths complement each other?

The two paths complement each other by providing balance and diversity to human existence. They represent different aspects of human nature that are both essential and valuable. They enrich each other by offering different perspectives and insights that can broaden one's understanding and appreciation of life. They support each other by filling the gaps and weaknesses that each one has.

How do the two paths clash with each other?

The two paths clash with each other by creating tension and conflict in human existence. They represent opposite poles of human nature that are often incompatible and contradictory. They challenge each other by questioning the validity and superiority of each one's approach and values. They threaten each other by exposing the flaws and limitations that each one has.

What is the ultimate message of the story?

The ultimate message of the story is that there is no single or ideal path for everyone. Each person has to find their own path that suits their personality, talents, goals, and circumstances. Each path has its advantages and disadvantages, its joys and sorrows, its successes and failures. The best one can do is to be true to oneself, to respect others' choices, and to learn from both.


Summary of the main points

In conclusion, Narcissus and Goldmund is a novel that explores the contrast between two different paths in life: one based on reason and discipline, the other based on passion and adventure. The novel follows the lives of two friends who embody these paths: Narcissus, who becomes a monk and a scholar; Goldmund, who becomes a wanderer and an artist. The novel shows how these paths complement and clash with each other in various ways.

Personal opinion and recommendation

In my opinion, Narcissus and Goldmund

is a fascinating and profound novel that offers a rich and nuanced portrait of human nature and experience. It raises many interesting questions and dilemmas about how one should live and what one should value. It also presents two compelling characters and flawed in their own ways. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a well-written and thought-provoking story that explores the complexity and diversity of human life.


  • Who is the author of Narcissus and Goldmund?

  • The author is Hermann Hesse, a German-Swiss writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.

  • When and where is the novel set?

  • The novel is set in medieval Germany, sometime between the 13th and 14th centuries.

  • What is the genre of the novel?

  • The novel is a bildungsroman, a type of novel that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the main character.

  • What are some of the symbols and motifs in the novel?

  • Some of the symbols and motifs in the novel are the cloister, which represents order and stability; the forest, which represents freedom and danger; the sun and the moon, which represent reason and passion; the cross and the circle, which represent faith and nature; and the lily and the rose, which represent purity and love.

  • What are some of the influences and inspirations for the novel?

  • Some of the influences and inspirations for the novel are Hesse's own life experiences, such as his education, his travels, his relationships, and his spiritual quest; his interest in psychology, especially the theories of Carl Jung; his admiration for classical and medieval literature, such as Plato's dialogues, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; and his involvement in the cultural and political movements of his time, such as humanism, pacifism, and existentialism.



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