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Herzog

Saul Bellow

Section 9

Section 8

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

It is the day after Moses' car accident. Moses is back in his old country home in Ludeyville. The house is in disrepair, and the garden overgrown, but Moses is happy there. He finds traces of his old life in the house: things Madeleine bought, their old canned goods, and the bathroom shower railing they had put in especially for Valentine.

Moses notices that lovers occupied the house while he was gone. He is pleased to see that they chose his room to sleep in. He writes letters, and for the first time, they are letters he plans to send. He writes Ramona an apology of sorts, peppered with his own brand of philosophy. He writes to Marco asking him to consider about joining Moses in the summerhouse so that they can "rough it" together in Ludeyville. Moses asks Lucas, his friend from Chicago, to post the letters so that Ramona will not know where he is. After writing these real letters, Moses begins writing letters he does not plan to send. He writes to Mermelstein about his book, truth, and the nature of suffering. He writes reconciliation letters to Madeleine and to Valentine. He writes to the philosopher Nietzsche, telling him that his ideas "are no better than those of the Christianity [he] condemns." Moses continues to rant for a while, but then he switches gears and speaks of his contentment and joy.

Moses' brother Will arrives, fulfilling his promise to visit the house. The brothers discuss the house, and Will says it is best if he puts the house up for sale. Moses is not convinced that this is the best solution. He does his best to seem sane, containing himself in order to demonstrate his normalcy. Still, his brother and his sister are worried about him and suggest that he check in to a hospital for monitoring. Moses considers going to the hospital, but ends up refusing to go. Moses asks Will to take him to the Tuttles, the most efficient couple in Ludeyville. He wants to ask Mr. Tuttle to turn on his electricity, and Mrs. Tuttle to help him clean the house. At the Tuttles', Moses receives a message from Ramona saying that she is in town. After talking to Ramona and introducing her to Will, Moses invites her over to dinner. Later, Will warns him not to make the same mistake he always makes with women. Moses says there is no chance he will make that mistake, and seems secure in this statement.

The novel ends with Moses getting ready for Ramona's dinner visit. He is preparing her meal, and Mrs. Tuttle is cleaning. He feels that he has finished his letter writing; the letters do not seem necessary anymore. The novel concludes with the words, "At this time he had no messages for anyone. Nothing. Not a single word."

Analysis

At the beginning of this section, Moses makes reference to P.B. Shelley's poem Ozymandias, which is about a fallen emperor of Egypt whose ruins lie in the desert sand. His once-glorious edifices now stand alone, abandoned, and insignificant. On them stands an ironic inscription: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my worlds, ye Mighty, and despair!" This reference may suggest that Moses has fallen from the nobility he once thought was his. Alternatively, the reference to this poem may mean that Moses now understands that everyone, even the mighty, eventually fall and die. There is a kind of peace in this type of realization.

We are not sure whether Moses truly finds happiness by the end of the novel. At times, his happiness seems little more than tired complacency. Still, there are moments that seem truly joyful, such as when Moses opens the windows of his house and lets the sun in. The strongest argument for Moses' happiness is his ability to admit that "the bitter cup would come round again, by and by." Because he can now accept that moments of joy and beauty will inevitably alternate with moments of pain, he will not be disappointed by unrealistic expectations of eternal happiness. He can find the happiness that comes from a calm acceptance of reality.

Moses stops writing letters, which demonstrates his newfound mental health. He has come to understand himself fully, and now he is ready to interact with the world, not just with himself. In this chapter, Moses begins to write actual letters that he will send out into the world, instead of letters that he will never send. This shows his new ability to engage with the people in his life. The end of the novel finds him preparing for a dinner with Ramona, a dinner that differs in character from the one he shared with her in the beginning of the novel. He now feels certain that he will not make his old mistake of trying to find salvation from sex and women.

More Help

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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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