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Surroundings Make The Man

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“…he [man] lives in a given at a particular moment in the historical development of that culture. This is by no means just because the person happened to grow up among others and therefore reflects their opinions, but because it is the essence of man’s nature to interpret his values in the context of his relation to other people and their expectations” (May 76). According to John Locke, people begin their lives with a clean slate and are nurtured by their surroundings and contact with others, also known as Tabula Rasa (Landry). In Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and The Stranger by Albert Camus, both Siddhartha and Meursault, respectively, affect this concept of Tabula Rasa, which makes each of the men who he ultimately becomes. Part of this theory is that a change of location can and will alter who a person becomes. In conjunction with his own unhappiness and the views of others around him, Siddhartha moves from place to place in the novel in a cyclical movement. Conversely, Meursault’s location defines who he is because of his decision not to move. Expanding on the theory of Tabula Rasa, one is changed due to his or her contact and relationship with others. Siddhartha’s relationships throughout the book continuously change him and his beliefs. Similarly, Meursault’s relations such both friends and strangers alike cause him to take actions he may not have taken without their interactions. As Tabula Rasa states Expectations made by society also change the way one views life and his or her opinions. In Siddhartha Siddhartha is unhappy with himself because he feels as if he must prove himself to society. On the contrary Meursault does not feel as if he must conform and therefore is changed by not doing what society dictates. Siddhartha and Meursault are products of their surroundings due to a change in location, human relationships and influence, and experience.

As the definition of Tabula Rasa states, changing location and environment adjusts a person’s outlook on life (Landry). In Siddhartha the protagonist, Siddhartha, is in search of happiness, which causes his continuously varying surroundings to change who he is. Siddhartha's change in location is due to the love from his family and his desire of happiness while in search of his goal. But Siddhartha does not bring joy to himself, he does not delight himself. Walking along the rosy paths of the fig orchard…with perfect breeding of his gestures, loved by all, a joy to all, he nevertheless bore no joy in his heart…He had started feeling that his father’s love, and his mother’s love, and also his friend Govinda’s love would not make him happy forever and always, not please him, gratify him, satisfy him” (Hesse 4-5). Siddhartha’s happiness is nearly nonexistent early in the book. He does not feel fulfilled from the love of the people he cares for, which had satisfied him in the past. His decision to move away from his village is made because of his search for the higher goal of self-discovery. “Although generously endowed with intelligence, good looks, a winning personality, and all other requirements for what would normally be considered a successful life, Siddhartha is not content. He is conscious of a discrepancy between conventional assumptions and personal satisfaction… (Butler 1-2). His search for himself drives him away from his village as well. However, in the end, it is the journey itself that will motivate Siddhartha to continue rather than the final product. Siddhartha’s discontent is easily noticed and the reasons are obvious. In contrast, The Stranger’s Meursault’s search for happiness and change in location is a defining factor of who he is and the way his character develops. Meursault finds his content with what he is accustomed to and does not want to move away. Meursault is offered a job by his boss to work in Paris. Meursault is not “dissatisfied with his life here at all” and “wasn’t unhappy” as his life is now (Camus 41). His indifference and feelings of happiness and love of where his life currently is causes him to want to stay home and not change. “He also declines the opportunity of going to Paris. Not to have any professional ambition is an affront to modern society” (Feuerlicht 2). This passage shows how he is happy where is with no desire to move on to something different. Due to his relative happiness of where he is, Meursault does not need to change location to define who he is. The fact that he does not move is what makes him the man he becomes. Also, his love or lack of love towards Marie shows how he is happy with how his life is and, therefore, he does not want to be changed. Siddhartha and Meursault are changed due to their surroundings and search of happiness, though their ideas of happiness are much different.

Further adding to the theory of Tabula Rasa is the idea that human contact and how the influence of others can change who a person becomes. Siddhartha comes in contact with many different people throughout the novel. While on his quest for something, he cannot find who will give him love, experience and a feeling of dependence. As he moves from place to place, he meets a courtesan, Kamala, and falls in love with her. He “makes a resolve” and follows through with it to love her and be with her (Hesse 56). He subconsciously gains much experience from her and her ways. This experience brings about his love for her, though it is most likely love of their physical relationship and not a true love. He becomes dependent of her love and gives up all of his internal progress that he had been striving for previously in the novel to be with her and their physical relationship. “For the first time in many years he really looks about him and perceives the beauty of the world. The world about him, from which he had fled, he now finds attractive and good. He must not seek to escape life but face it, live it (Malthaner 4). Siddhartha’s new outlook on life is made by the influence of the people he comes in contact with, such as Kamala. His love, experience, and dependence on others have made Siddhartha



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