To some extent, this phrase certainly holds true for the novels Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, and Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. Both novels feature an eponymous hero on a journey, and both novels end with the resolution of many points of tension and conflict within the novel. However, for both novels the end is not so much an end in itself, but more like the beginning of yet another journey, the beginning of the end.
Before we proceed any further, we must first define what is meant by the word ending. The ending can be considered the final stage, the last resolution of something. In this case, it is a novel, and the ending of the story in a novel is conventionally found in its final or last chapters, one exception being the novel The God of Small Things, in which the novel ends somewhere in the middle of the story. In the case of Huck Finn and Siddhartha, the main area of focus (for the purposes of the essay) will be on the final chapters of both novels.
In Huckleberry Finn, the hero, Huck Finn, embarks on a journey of high adventure. The novel starts off with the introduction of the characters of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. The rest of the novel then takes place in episodes, starting with Huck faking his death and meeting the runaway slave Jim with whom he embarks on his journey down the river with, the feud between the two families, the King and the Duke, and finally ending with the Phelps Farm incident.
The final episode, the Phelps Farm incident, is where the resolution of the novel’s main point of tension is resolved. The black slave Jim is finally made a free man, having been “set free in her [Miss Watson’s] will” after travelling down the Mississippi in search of freedom. This fact is discovered only after much action and adventure on the part of Huck and Tom, who go to great lengths to free him from the cabin he was held in.
The appearance of Tom and also the mood in the last few chapters of the novel are reminiscent of the first few chapters. In a sense, the novel begins with Tom Sawyer, and ends with Tom Sawyer. At the start of the novel and at the end of the novel, the mood reverts back to one of triviality, with the two boys scheming and planning a grandiose romantic scheme.
At the start of the novel they plan to start a “band of robbers and call it Tom Sawyer’s gang”, complete with oaths to be sworn, people to be killed and to be taken hostage. By the end of the novel, their plan to save Jim includes them having to “steal candles, and…sheet[s], and…shirt[s]…no end of things” to make “nonnamous letters from the robbers…the rope ladder” among other things. The difference between the start and the end of the novel is, by the end of the novel, Huck and Tom actually manage to execute their romanticised plans. However, it is revealed in the second last chapter of the novel that Jim was already a free man, thus rendering all their previous efforts frivolous and ultimately unnecessary.
Another point of tension that is resolved is the conflict between Huck and Pap, his father. Throughout the novel Pap remains an invisible figure of sorts, his shadow constantly haunting Huck, with Huck worrying that all his money has been taken away by his drunk, abusive father. However, we discover through Jim that Pap is already dead and his was the body that Jim “unkivered” in the house that they found floating by earlier in the novel.
As we can see, the ending of Huck Finn manages to provide conclusions for important plot points in the story. Also, the similarities between the start and the end help to highlight differences in Huck’s personality and show that Huck has matured along his journey. At the beginning of the novel, when he listens to Tom lay out his plans, Huck willingly follows them with little or no questioning. However, by the end of the novel where Tom similarly lays out his schemes, Huck this time questions Tom’s strategies and follows a proper chain of logic and reasoning. This is evidence of Huck’s maturity that he has gained along his journey with Jim.
The similarities between the start and end of the novel may signify that events have come full circle but they also signify the restarting of events. The novel takes on a cyclic nature at the end of the novel, reintroducing characters like Tom Sawyer and re-capturing the mood of the first few chapters. This may signal a restart of the sequence of events all over again, with the presence of Tom Sawyer and the frivolous mood of the novel acting as a sort of marker. The final lines “Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before” seems to herald the re-beginning of events, with Huck running away yet again to go off on his own journey.
Also, the final line of the novel “The End. Yours Truly, Huck Finn.” Has an air of finality to it, but is still somewhat inconclusive. It has a personal and sincere tone “yours truly” but one wonders if this is really “The End” for Huckleberry Finn. These final lines, as well as the final episode in the novel, certainly show a rounding off of certain elements in the novel, but also an opening out of a possible new adventure. In relation to the start and the rest of the novel, the ending is not so much an ending, but rather, the beginning of the rest of Huck’s adventures.
In Siddhartha, the statement, “Not rounding off, but opening out.”, also rings true. The final chapter in the novel embodies this statement. In this chapter, the main driving plot point of the entire novel is resolved; we finally discover that Siddhartha has indeed attained enlightenment. We discover through Govinda’s description of Siddhartha’s smile, “This, Govinda knew, was how the Perfect Ones smiled.” Siddhartha is smiling “just as he had smiled, the Sublime One.” From this we can deduce that Siddhartha has finally managed to attain enlightenment after so long a quest, and the major point of tension is finally resolved in the final chapter of the novel.
However, while the main focus of the novel has been resolved, another is far from being concluded; Govinda’s quest for enlightenment is far from over. Similarly to Huck Finn, Siddhartha also ends with the reappearance of a supporting character, Govinda. From the very beginning, Siddhartha’s has been accompanied by Govinda, and at the very end, Govinda is with Siddhartha again. The novel, like Huck Finn, also takes on a cyclic nature.
It should also be noted that the final chapter is titled Govinda. Much like the novel is called Siddhartha, and chronicles Siddhartha’s search for enlightenment, so does the chapter Govinda now focus on Govinda’s continued search for enlightenment. The novel has shifted focus, its main character has already attained enlightenment, and now it is time for Siddhartha’s faithful friend to undertake this journey as well. Govinda’s search for enlightenment, and failure to attain it, is embodied in the lines “Sorrow and eternal seeking were written in his gaze, eternal failure to find”.
However, the line that follows seems to give hope, “Siddhartha saw it and smiled.” Siddhartha seems to aid Govinda in his search for enlightenment. When Govinda kisses Siddhartha’s forehead at the latter’s request, he is offered a glimpse into what enlightenment, nirvana, is like. The novel ends with the inconclusive line “…whose smile reminded him of everything that he had ever loved in his life, that had ever been valuable and holy to him in his life.” The novel ends here, and we are left unaware of what becomes of Siddhartha, and more importantly, Govinda; we will never know if he attains enlightenment like Siddhartha has.
The inconclusiveness of the novel’s conclusion manages to embody the statement; the novel certainly rounds off (we discover that Siddhartha has indeed attained enlightenment), but at the same time, the novel opens up new possibilities, this time for the character of Govinda. In relation to the rest of the novel, the end is merely a new beginning; in Siddhartha, the end of Siddhartha’s journey serves as the beginning of Govinda’s.
In both novels, we can see that the statement “Not rounding off, but opening out” holds true to certain extent, a certain extent because the novels DO round off, but they also open out. The pattern of the story structure in Huck Finn, where the end is similar to the beginning, and the indefiniteness of the ending of Siddhartha, opens up new paths for the characters. The endings of the two novels have opened up new roads, new destinations, new journeys, new adventures, new quests, new trials.