Saul Bellow and Moses Herzog

By Wu, Pin-hsiang Natalie | Saul Bellow Journal, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Saul Bellow and Moses Herzog


Wu, Pin-hsiang Natalie, Saul Bellow Journal


A general problem encountered by the critics and the readers of Herzog is the ambiguity in trying to distinguish Moses Herzog's voice from that of Saul Bellow. Outside the use of direct quotation to present the hero's speech, indirect presentation of the hero's words in the novel sometimes obliterates the delimitations between the author and the hero. Many critics and readers take it for granted that Moses, especially in displaying his philosophical, intellectual, ethical, and philanthropic viewpoints, serves as a mouthpiece for Bellow, and thus the theme of the novel resides in the optimistic moralistic values proposed by Bellow to act as counterweight to the prevalent pessimistic attitudes or cultural nihilism of the modern West. In a speech delivered to students of Beijing University in 1986, Brigitte Scheer-Schaezler, a critic of Bellow, obviously mixed Moses Herzog's identity with Saul Bellow's. In her speech, she conveyed ideas such as, "One of Bellow's most explicit passages refuting cultural pessimism is contained in Herzog in which Bellow allows himself to become really temperamental, angry, witty, and sharply ironical" (5). Suzanne Evertsen Lundquist, another critic of Bellow, wrote, "Bellow, through the mouth of Herzog, has demonstrated the paradox of textual metaphor" (38). Andrea Mannis presupposed that Moses's definition of Nietzsche's words equals Bellow's own: "Herzog admires these men as well, particularly Nietzsche, in whom Herzog recognizes the courage to question as has never been questioned before. Thus Bellow's opinion of Nietzsche is mixed" (28). M. Al Quayum similarly notices the affinity between the discourse of the hero and that of the author when he makes the following statement: "Despite the separate identity Herzog enjoys in the fictive world of the novel, he also shares temperamental affinities with his author and comes to represent the latter's voice and sentiment in many ways" (44). Such mixing of character's and author's voices not only ignores Bellow's artistic assertions on the principles of fictional characters but may cause misunderstanding: readers may not see Moses as a character of individual perspectives.

In his 1976 Nobel speech, Bellow observed that "human types have become false and boring" and that those "identifiable personalities" that we derived from many famous European novels actually represented "an awful phenomenon" ("Nobel Lecture" 80). He favored Elizabeth Bowen's definition of characters: they "are not created by writers. They preexist and they have to be found" ("Nobel Lecture" 82). Clearly, Bellow refuted the notion that he spoke through the mouth of Moses to convey his own philosophy; thus, readers might be misled if they blur the division between the discourses of the hero and the author. As readers, we should clarify that Bellow's discourse sits primarily upon his artistic design for the story of Moses, as Bellow seeks to make all parts contribute to the final message of the novel. The author's speech and the hero's discourse thus must both be defined spherically to make clear the interactions, agreements, contemplations, or confrontations between them.

Mikhail M. Bakhtin's (1895-1975) proposition of "double narration" serves partially as criteria for clarifying those vague and problematic discourses in Herzog, because the notions of "double narration" involve a fundamental belief that the author's discourse and the character's discourse should be separated. (1) The author and the hero must be two completely different identities. The hero must create his own field of vision and unique perspective, define himself, design his own life, and decide his own fate; thus "the real-life definition" of the hero and "the artistic dominant of his image are fused into one" (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics 51). In spite of those prominent contributions made by Bakhtin, I maintain that there is a further breakdown of his "authorial discourse" into two subdivisions: visible and invisible authorial discourse. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Saul Bellow and Moses Herzog
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.