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Seize the Day

  • Study Guide
Characters

Dr. Tamkin

Characters Dr. Tamkin

We must question our picture of Dr. Tamkin, like many of the characters of the novel. He claims to be many things, but what is true is difficult to surmise. He claims that he is a psychiatrist, a healer, a poet, a stock market specialist, that he has tended to the Egyptian royal family and that he is, among other things, a master inventor. He is also an advocator of Reichian philosophy: he believes in juxtaposition. However, there are many truths within his lies. Perhaps also, one might come to understand his "lies" as simply stories or parables. For a man who believes in the power of juxtaposition and the force of opposites working together, a man who believes in flux and in alternative ways of looking at the world, it makes perfect sense for the reader to find truth within his lies. The paradox, itself, is a work of juxtaposition.

In many ways then, one might say that Dr. Tamkin is much like Bellow himself. That is to say that he is an "inventor," a teller of tales and truths, and, therefore, an authorial figure. Significantly, he also takes on the role of a surrogate father for Wilhelm, giving him advice and leading him to an eventual recognition of self.

Dr. Tamkin, whether a liar or not, is an attractive figure. This is not to say that he, along with the psychology and Romanticism he preaches, is not often the subject of Bellow's parodying force. However, it is important to disregard Tamkin, for he always practices what he preaches even if his methods are seemingly "unsound."