A symbol when used in a literary work is something that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself. The pervasive symbol in Siddhartha is the river. The river by itself is an image, but when the deeper meaning which Hesse attaches to it is taken into account, the image becomes a symbol. The river, which is a symbol of life in its totality, plays an important role in the story. After abandoning his worldly life, Siddhartha sleeps by the river, and when he awakes he feels he has been reborn. He resolves to stay by the river and learn from it. The river teaches him that time has no existence, just as the river has neither a past nor a future. It just flows eternally. He also learns to understand every aspect of life through his contemplation of the river.
Another symbol used in the novel, although it is much less important than the river, is the songbird. The songbird is owned by Kamala, and she keeps it in a golden cage. Siddhartha dreams one night that it is dead. The songbird is a symbol of the spiritual aspect of Siddhartha's life, which is dying because of his worldly life. After Siddhartha leaves Kamala, she releases the songbird from its cage.
Siddhartha: Metaphor Analysis