The Dissatisfaction of Wandering May 27, 2009
Narcissus and Goldmund are two men who represent two perspectives of life: the intellectual and the physical. Both characters are set in a medieval monastery, and both conceive of the spiritual; but even the spiritual is largely intellectual for Narcissus, and physical for Goldmund. The two – Narcissus the young teacher, and Goldmund the exceptional student – are friends, though they have contradictions. Narcissus, by mental discipline, chooses the ascetic lifestyle of the monastery. Goldmund, upon reaching the age of consent, chooses to leave on a sensual journey to find where his divine vision of his deceased mother leads him.
The story is interesting for Hesse’s study of those ideals to which men devote themselves – religion, beauty, art. But I am as dissatisfied with the character of Goldmund as much as he is dissatisfied with everything else. To read of a character’s angst for three hundred pages is far too long; far too indulgent of the author. If the character has matured, if he is a convert, he is that kind of convert who speaks so highly and so much of the former decadent life that the reader questions if there has been any change.