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Seize the Day

Saul Bellow

Contents

Chapter IV

page 1 of 2

Chapter IV

Chapter IV

Chapter IV

Summary

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."

Analysis

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.

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CHAPTER IV QUICK QUIZ

Once his meeting with his father is over, whom does Tommy blame for their conflict?
Himself
His father
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