Academic journal article Researchers World

Saul Bellow's Quest Hero - Henderson the Rain King

Academic journal article Researchers World

Saul Bellow's Quest Hero - Henderson the Rain King

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Endless striving for 'human redemption' seems to be the underlying motif of Saul Bellow's novels, and most of his protagonists are in search of enhanced meaning in their life. Critics have called Henderson the Rain King a "quest-romance" that takes the protagonist to Africa, a place that Bellow had not yet visited. This study makes an attempt of how the gigantic, blustering, crazed, and comic Henderson testifies to Bellow's remarkable creative diversity. Hender son itself is a triumph of the imagination, with its marvelous descriptions of a purely fictive Africa, an Africa of the soul. For all the exoticism of the events, the writing is as tough and witty as in the earlier books. Henderson, who tells his own story as Augie did, uses an even more flavourful language. Despite his comic blunderings and bull-headedness, he is an appealing figure. And despite the fantastic setting, the central character is capable of deeper emotional attachment to people and objects than has been true in the preceding books.

Keywords: Human Redemption, Search, Quest-romance, Protagonist, Creative Diversity.

INTRODUCTION:

Saul Bellow is regarded as one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century and American literature's most resourceful writer for all times. He is one of the most erudite and intellectual writers of the second half of the twentieth century, belongs to the humanist wing, as he is a unique spokesman for humanitarian values and ideals in American literature. Since his appearance on the literary scene in the mid forties, Saul Bellow, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize for literature, has left his mark on the international literary world. His writings, which combine prophetic wisdom with human comedy, have always elicited extreme response: reverence or condemnation. He is one the few contemporary authors who has been able to sustain the interest and dominate the field of academic and scholarly inquiry for over four decades. His fiction typically addresses the meaning of human existence in an increasingly impersonal and mechanistic world. Writing in a humorous, anecdotal style, Bellow often depicts introspective individuals sorting out a conflict between Old world and New world values while coping with personal anxieties and aspirations. Saul bellow has been a most persevering chronicler of America's restless search for a definable self, articulating more common needs and ills of American society at large. Each of his novels feels the pulse of its decade, exposing the social and intellectual issues at hand. None of his works allow for easy identification or rejection. As a consequence, none have gone un contended...the controversies they address seem to beckon our response. American novels of quest lay emphasis on the nature of human freedom as the heroes of quest novels more often than not balance between their fear of being entrapped into some fixed forms of existence and that of having an amorphous identity or no identity at all.

The quest in Henderson is magnified into an odyssey. No longer confined to New York or Chicago, it takes place in the jungles of America and Africa. The protagonist descends into the heart of darkness and returns not with an awareness of horror, but with a radiant confidence in man and in human possibility. Henderson the Rain King is the first fully realized work of Bellow's maturity. It is Bellow's first novel of which one can say that no other writer could have conceived it, much less written it.

Bellow himself has said his own favourite among his writings is Henderson the Rain King - "the absurd seeker of high qualities" (1964: 38). Endless striving for 'human redemption' seems to be the underlying motif of Bellow's novels, and most of his protagonists are in search of enhanced meaning in their life. Critics have called Henderson the Rain King a "quest-romance" that takes the protagonist to Africa, a place that Bellow had not yet visited. The gigantic, blustering, crazed, and comic Henderson testi fies to Bellow's remarkable creative diversity. …

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