Herzog Study Guide

Herzog Study Guide

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Herzog by Saul Bellow is a novel that features an original narrative style - mostly it consists of the letters of the protagonist, a Jewish man in his forties named Herzog, who survives through the midlife crisis. His two marriages were unlucky ones, with the second one ending in a very humiliating and devastating fashion with his wife openly cheating on him and even making him arrange her move to her lover. Broken, Herzog tries to fix his life by changing it completely.

This story is mostly psychological - because of the narrative style, it is focused on the emotions and reflections of the protagonist, not on his actions. We see him going through all stages of grieving and survive with him his personal disaster, when he gets a message from his daughter, that hints that her new stepfather may be an abuser.

A despaired man, a father, ready to do anything to protect his daughter - the only living being who loves him, as he thinks - gradually crawls his way out of the abyss of despair and depression and starts to fix his life. The symbolism of his house - wrecked, old and abandoned - is very powerful in the novel. While we can’t actually see the changes in his attitude to life - because, as the author of the letters, Herzog doesn’t see them immediately too - his house that he starts repairing serves as a powerful hint that something, at least the basic structures of his life, are still intact and this is the point from which everything can be rebuilt. The ending note of the novel states that Herzog doesn’t feel the need to write letters anymore. It shows how far he has gone in his coping and how well he is doing with passing through his crisis.

This book isn’t full of action, it is mostly dedicated to the meditations of the main characters. If you want a realistic but still inspiring story about repairing one’s broken life, this book is a must have for you.

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