Moses is in a cab on his way to Grand Central Station, where he will catch a train to Martha's Vineyard. In the cab, a letter-writing frenzy begins. The letter-writing persists at high intensity throughout this chapter. When Moses occasionally looks up from his persistent jotting, it is only to retreat into memory.
One of his first letters is to Tennie, Madeleine's mother and Moses' ex- mother-in-law. He had heard from his lawyer, Simkin (the man he employs after his first lawyer, Himmelstein), that Tennie was upset that Moses had not visited her since the divorce. Moses writes this letter in order to apologize for his absence and arrange a visit. Moses feels sorry for Tennie, who is divorced from Madeleine's actor father. The cab deposits Moses at Grand Central, interrupting his writing. The subway trains remind Moses of riding the train with his mother, his father, and his siblings as a youth in Montreal.
Still standing on the Grand Central Platform, Moses begins a letter to Aunt Zelda, Madeleine's aunt. In remembering a conversation he had with Zelda, Moses reveals to us Madeleine's side of the marriage. Moses continues to write on the train. He writes to his good friend Lucas Asphalter, who is in a terrible state because of the death of his monkey, Rocco. Lucas gave the monkey mouth-to- mouth, and the rescue attempt was written up in the tabloids. In his letter to Lucas, Moses reveals to the reader that it was Lucas who told Moses about Madeleine's affair with Valentine Gersbach. There is mention of a letter from Geraldine, the babysitter of June, Moses and Madeleine's daughter.
On his train ride to the Vineyard, Moses continues to write to a variety of people—relatives, celebrities, political personages, institutions, and friends. His subject matter varies from poverty in America to practical statements about his debts. He writes to Dr. Bhave, the leader of an Indian Utopian movement, and thinks about joining the movement. He writes to the President about taxes, to the New York Times about radiation, and to Dr. Emmett Strawforth about the evils of Hiroshima.
One of the lengthiest letters in this section is the one Moses writes to Dr. Edvig, the psychiatrist who treated him on Madeleine's request, and who Moses believes helped Madeleine decide on divorce. In an angry letter, Moses tells Edvig about the suffering Edvig has caused him. He explains that Mady had a warrant put on him so that he could not go near the house. He writes that he understands now that Edvig was in love with Madeleine. He writes until he is interrupted by the thought of his daughter, June, and her capacity for love.
In this chapter, mention is made of Madeleine's conversion to Christianity, of which Herzog did not approve. Moses also recounts a conversation with Valentine Gersbach, in which he told Valentine about his sexual troubles with Madeleine. Valentine reacted angrily at Moses' attempts to sleep with Madeleine, which makes sense to Moses in retrospect, when he discovers Mady's affair with Valentine.
Bellow uses doubles throughout the novel, one of which appears in this chapter. Tennie is a kind of double for Moses, which Moses does not realize. He pities Tennie as an old divorcee who fights her age by dressing snazzily and "showing her legs." But Bellow makes it clear that Moses resembles Tennie in many ways. Moses, in his mid to late forties, is still interested in clothing, buying ridiculously fashionable clothes for a casual trip to the seashore. He feels betrayed by Aunt Zelda, just as Tennie feels betrayed by Moses.
The remembered conversations between Moses and Aunt Zelda shed new light on Madeleine and Moses' marriage. Thus far we have thought of Madeleine as the one who wounded Moses, but here Zelda accuses Moses of womanizing and having affairs. Zelda also claims that Moses was a dictator and a tyrant. The name "Herzog" means "Duke," and for the first time in this chapter, we wonder if Moses Herzog is a cruel master or a fallen one. Moses says of himself, "I do seem to be a broken-down monarch of some kind like my old man, the princely immigrant an ineffectual bootlegger."
In this chapter, we see Moses' aversion to what he calls "Reality-Instructors," those people like his lawyers and his brother Shura who lecture him on the necessity of realism. Moses cannot stop thinking, and even when he tries to remain rational, his thoughts sweep him away. Moses is a romantic struggling in a world of realists. His very topic of study is romanticism. In the second, unfinished, volume of his book, he attempted to address "modern conditions" by "renewing universal connections." He believed romantics made a mistake in emphasizing the uniqueness of the self and the individual. Moses believes that social ties, not the individual, is most important. Paradoxically, however, Moses seems to live in his own mind, not with others. Moses prizes society and connections to others, but lives in his thoughts.
In section one, Moses Herzog is found alone in a big old house in the Berkshires, reflecting on his past, trying to come to terms with his troubled life: middle aged, twiced divorced, impotent.
He is thought to be out of his mind by Madeline, his ex-second wife, who fell in love with Valentine, his best friend.