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Herzog

Saul Bellow

Section 8

Section 7

Section 9

Summary

Moses finally meets with his daughter, which fills him with a painful joy. June is very loving to him. She talks about Valentine, who she calls Uncle Val, and tells her father that she likes Valentine because he makes good funny faces. She says Valentine does not tell stories as well as Moses does. Madeleine had told June not to mention Uncle Val to Moses, because it might anger him. Moses, however, does not want to make his daughter feel awkward, and tells her she can say whatever she wants, and he will not be angry. He tells her it is all "silliness," and he will not ask her questions about Valentine. Moses tells June a story about a boy whose freckles stand for stars.

Moses gives his daughter a periscope, which she likes. He is proud of her intelligence and acts like a typically happy father. He takes her to the aquarium. Threaded through Moses' visit with June are memories of Jonah Herzog's funeral. As Moses and June drive away after visiting the aquarium, they get into a car accident. June is unscathed, but Moses is left unconscious and his rented car is damaged.

Moses is not ticketed for the accident, but the police find the unlicensed gun in his possession, and question him and take him to the station. As June and Moses ride to the station in the police car, Moses realizes that he put June's life in danger by trying to "save" her from Valentine. He curses his emotional nature and understands that he has been overly emotional. He fears his daughter will remember this in years to come since his own childhood memories are so vivid. Moses remembers being raped and not telling anyone about it.

A sergeant questions Moses about the gun, and Moses tells the sergeant that he took the gun from his father's desk for sentimental reasons. The sergeant says they will call Madeleine to pick up June. Moses objects, to no avail. Madeleine picks up June while the sergeant is still questioning Moses, and Moses tries not to confront her in his usual manner. He says goodbye to June. Moses' bond is set at three hundred dollars, and he is taken to his cell. He calls his brother Will to bail him out.

While waiting for his brother in the cell, Moses writes several letters: one to Dr. Edvig, one to Ramona, and another to God. Will picks him up, exhibiting great concern for Moses. Will takes Moses to the doctor, who tapes up Moses' broken rib. Will and Moses about Moses' property in Ludeyville, a burdensome but pleasurable property. Will promises to pass by the house at a later date in order to see it on his way to Boston.

Analysis

In this climactic section of the novel, Moses is able to analyze himself dispassionately. He realizes that he overreacted after hearing it reported that Valentine was behaving cruelly to June. He also realizes that put his daughter's life in danger with his melodramatic assumptions. Moses confronts the horror of his murderous thoughts, even briefly telling himself he deserves what is happening to him. He chides his emotionalism and admits that he is a "sentimental s.o.b." By the end of this section of the novel, Moses has begun to accept the fundamental ambiguities of the world, and to see it as a grand mixture of good and evil, life and death, terrible and sublime. He mentions in his letter to Dr. Edvig that he is "better now at ambiguities." The struggles that have plagued Moses throughout the novel become less painful because of his newfound capability to accept juxtaposition, paradox, and uncertainty.

Earlier in the novel Moses had said that if "existence is nausea then faith is an uncertain relief." Perhaps Moses has found a kind of faith. He writes to God, saying that God is the "King of Death and Life." Moses further proves his ability to accept ambiguities and ironies by accepting the fact that God rules those two opposite domains, death and life.

Perhaps Moses learns to accept ambiguity because his car accident forces him to face death in a visceral way that is very different from facing death by thinking about it. Death pervades this chapter, and not only when Moses must face the prospect of it. The chapter constantly refers to Moses' father's funeral. Moses has a vivid memory of chickens being slaughtered. He also remembers that he was raped, a memory that has not come up before in the novel. By facing all of these manifestations of death and violence, Moses comes to terms with them. When Moses says that there are too many dead, he is referencing T.S. Eliot's poems The Waste Land and Hollow Men, poems of disillusioned modernity in which Eliot speaks of undone masses.

Moses' house in Ludeyville becomes the place where Moses will go as a new man. The house is simultaneously burdensome, a place where Moses can be miserable, and a place where he can find happiness. The house, like Moses' life, has an ambiguous purpose.

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Herzog: a depressive scholar

by thefirstlady33, September 12, 2013

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.

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