Narcissus and Goldmund
Philosophy and Moral
The contrast between nature and spirit, the fulcrum of the novel, lies in the path to the search for truth. Both Narciso, who represents the spirit, and Boccadoro, who represents nature, feel dissatisfied with their research because they use only the spirit or only the senses as a medium, and this proves insufficient. In fact Boccadoro loses his spirituality and faith in God, while Narciso, abbot, loses the ability to know with the senses; but after all both find peace because they learn to live according to their nature, and find full fulfillment in it.
The ascetic Narcissus was destined for a brilliant religious career. In the beginning he appears as a young master in the convent of Mariabronn (Maulbronn), feared and highly esteemed even by his superiors because of his knowledge. He also had the ability to read people’s minds with extraordinary precision.
The most sensational application of this dowry violently invested Boccadoro, a young and talented schoolboy sent to the monastery by the arid father in order to atone for the congenital sinful soul inherited from his mother. For Boccadoro the mother was an unclear figure, outlined mostly by the stories of the father. Narcissus, aware of this gap in his friend’s heart, recalls his memories and reveals to him a profound conviction that he could never have become a scholar or a religious man because this did not correspond to his nature. The young Boccadoro, strongly shaken by his friend’s words, meets a woman named Lisa, takes his leave and leaves the monastery.
The undertaken life of a vagabond teaches the young man to love, to suffer, to rejoice, to seek: in a few words he teaches him to live.
After a few years of desperate research Boccadoro discovers his nature as an artist, so brilliantly intuited by his friend Narciso. He becomes a pupil of the famous master Nicola to be able to depict the images created within him by the sensitive experience of the world. Having learned the art and prematurely obtained the diploma of master (thanks to the realization of his apostle Giovanni, in the image of his friend Narciso), he refused the inheritance of the workshop of the master Nicola and the hand of the beautiful daughter Elisabetta.
Boccadoro thus resumes his wandering life. During his pilgrimage Boccadoro knows the horrors of the world, but he also knows love; he loves many women, but only some of them will remain forever in his heart: the gypsy Lisa, Lidia, the daughter of the knight who hosted him in exchange for his Latin, Giulia, his sister, Lena, the plague-dead girl who loved him more sincerely than any other woman, Agnese, the count’s beautiful and glacial lover. But only one figure accompanied him throughout his existence from the moment of farewell to the monastery: the Eva-Mother, a vague, blurred image, eternally changing, which in the end turned out to be the image of his mother. Throughout his life Boccadoro sought this image. He found it only in old age during his last pilgrimage, in which his heart broke due to Agnese’s lack of love, he broke some ribs falling from his horse.
Throughout his life Boccadoro’s dream was to clearly grasp the image of the eternal Mother and to represent her; but once grasped, the pleasure deriving from the inner peace that ensued made the desire to represent it diminish in Boccadoro. Now he can die peacefully, because he has found his mother, and has discovered love, because without a mother one cannot love.