Seize the Day
After the meeting with his father is over, Tommy chides himself and his father internally. He is glad to be out of his father's sight, glad that their confrontation is over but he is raging, blaming both himself and his father. While he is still churning internally, Dr. Tamkin greets him. It is in this chapter that Dr. Tamkin comes to life.
There is a flashback of the day in which Tommy signed over his money to Tamkin. Tamkin had told Tommy that although the partnership is an equal one, he could not put all of his money into the venture at the moment for the simple reason that it is tied up in one of his inventions. Tommy goes ahead, nevertheless, and puts forth his part of the money, his last one thousand dollars, and signs the right of attorney over to Tamkin, to invest the money has he wills.
Wilhelm, throughout, fluctuates on his thoughts about Tamkin. He believes Tamkin's stories and then he thinks to himself that Tamkin is a liar—he is at once attracted to him and then repelled by him. Throughout this chapter Tamkin is giving constant advice, however. Although Tommy wants to talk about the investment in lard, the commodity they have invested in, Tamkin decides to talk about other things like psychology and poetry. Tamkin, among the many observations he makes, says that the struggle between Tommy and his father is an age-old struggle: that of parent and child. He is very much against those who love money and claims that the aristocracy "knows less about life." He talks also about the double-ness of the human being: the duplicity of the soul. In other words, he explains that each person has a true soul and a pretender soul. He discusses the human being's lack of "freedom," because of social constrictions and the actions of the pretender soul. He claims also that one should live in the "here-and-now."
Furthermore, Tamkin gives Tommy a poem he has written about him entitled "Mechanism vs. Functionalism/Ism vs. Hism." The poem is about seeing the potential of ones true self and being able to overcome and fulfill ones destiny. The poem is about "seizing the day" and internal power. Tommy is caught up in the discussion about the poem and the chapter ends with Tommy thinking once again about money, about his obligations, about the investment venture. The last sentence of the chapter is as follows: "The waters of the earth are going to roll over me."
This chapter is packed with kernels to be analyzed, re-read, and mentally churned. First and foremost, the motif of psychology is at its height of representation in its chapter. Many critics have claimed that Bellow imbued the book with a kind of psychology called Reichianism. This psychology arises out of the belief system of one Wilhelm Reich. The critic who has discussed this idea the most has been Eusebio Rodrigues, a Bellow scholar. The fact that the psychiatrist's first name (Wilhelm) and that of the novel's protagonist are the same is evidence that this Reichianism is intentional. However, it becomes obvious that Bellow is not only presenting the psychology through the character of Dr. Tamkin, but he is also playing satirist. He pokes fun of the psychology while, at the same time, employing some of its symbolism throughout.
For instance, Reich claimed that neurosis and imbalance arouse out of the tensions of the inner self (the natural) and the external world (that of monetary, and business pressures). This is exemplified in many ways throughout the chapter and the novel. Tamkin talks of the real soul and the pretender soul, for instance. This is much like the struggle between the inner and external world. Also, the title of the poem he gives to Tommy is entitled, "Mechanism vs. Functionalism/Ism vs. Hism." This is an almost direct translation of Reichian philosophy (naturalism vs. the external world). It is important, however, that the reader not take all of this too seriously because this kind of psychology is part of that "external," modern world that Bellows criticizes. This is paradoxical. The point is, however, that one must not miss the satire involved. The poem that Tamkin writes is parodical—it is making fun of Romantic poetry, the very kind of Romantic poetry that Tommy has been alluding to throughout the book.
To add to the "naturalism," it is important to mention that there is significance in the fact that Tommy's grandfather used to call him "Velvel." Velvel is Hebrew for wolf. This is significant for several reasons. First of all, it points to Tommy's lonely howling. The nickname also brings forth the animal motif that has been present throughout. Tommy is constantly referring to himself and others in animalistic terms. The name also revisits Reichian philosophy because it points to human kind's animalistic tendencies.
Still further, it is important to illustrate that although Bellow puts the character of Tamkin in question, he also shows Tamkin to be a truth-teller. There is a certain method to his madness—lucidity through the jargon. For example, Tamkin tells Tommy: "You can't march in a straight line to the victory You fluctuate toward it. From Euclid to Newton there was straight lines. The modern age analyzes the wavers." This is important because it points to the fact that Tommy is, ironically, in his "watery" state, on the right track to clarity. Water fluctuates. Tamkin will point him in the write direction in the sense that Tamkin is explaining to Tommy that he must embrace the water that he is seemingly drowning in order to succeed in some kind of rebirth. This statement also points to the fact that Tamkin has a better understanding of the predicament of modern man than Dr. Adler does. Dr. Adler is very much an advocate of the "straight and narrow," the "straight line to victory," an outdated mode that does not exist any longer in modernity. Interestingly, there was also a philosophy or mode of psychology called Adlerism in which Adler claimed that people are power driven. Thus it is not coincidental that the character of Dr. Adler is named after such a philosophy, since he is the symbol of "success" in the book.
Also, to illustrate that Dr. Tamkin practices what he preaches, Bellow makes sure to point out the books that Tamkin keeps in his room. These books illustrate a juxtaposition that is illustrative of the fluctuating path to victory. For instance, he mentions books that exist in opposition or that discuss opposing philosophies. Freud, for example, is paired with W.H. Sheldon, a staunch anti-Freudian.
Throughout this chapter, Tamkin provides Tommy with lies and with truths, yet another paradox. These "truths" will eventually allow him to break free from his "drowning state." However, at the present he has not quite accomplished such a feat. For, the chapter ends with the image of drowning, once again. Tommy is brought back to the external world of money by thinking of his seemingly failing investments.
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