Henderson the Rain King: Formalist Criticism

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NAME: JEREMIAH FOONG KANG YI

MATRIX NUM.: D20111047679

FACULTY: LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION

PROGRAM: TESL

PROGRAM CODE: AT 06

SEMESTER: 3

SESSION: 2012/2013

COURSE: LITERARY CRITICISM

COURSE CODE: BIS 3023

GROUP : B

ASSIGNMENT: CRITICAL ANALYSIS ON HENDERSON THE RAIN KING

LECTURER: MR. SEVA BALA SUNDARAM A/L A.M MARIAPPAN

For this novel, I will be critically analyzing it using two theories, namely the “Formalist Criticism” (which is also known as “New Criticism”) and “Reader-Response Criticism”. The reason I choose both these criticism theories are because I personally opine that these two theories can realistically reflect our views on the literature read as readers. By the Formalist Criticism approach, I will firstly provide a plot summary of “Henderson the Rain King”. “Henderson the Rain King” was written by Saul Bellow in the year 1959. In this novel, Saul Bellow names his main character, or also known as “the protagonist”, Eugene Henderson. Eugene Henderson is depicted, in this novel, as a troubled, middle-aged man. He is physically attributed with a large body frame, a bumbling loud voice, and possesses great physical strength. Contradictory to his struggling life, his family background is one which is rather wealthy. Eugene’s father was a famous author and he left him three million dollars when he passed. He is not at all amazed neither pleased with the life he has been living all the while and plans to heed his inner voice and go out to search for a better life, which he believes, lies in Africa. Before leaving for Africa though, he tried numerous ways to satisfy his weird calls by playing the violin, drinking, and shouting at his wife. He carried on with his plan to Africa with his friend Charlie Albert and his wife. He however set off to travel on his own upon finding a pampered travelling style Charlie practices. Eugene meets the Arnewi tribe and tries to help to settle their drinking problem which was caused by a frog infestation at the bottom of their drinking well. Eugene failed to help when he blasted the frogs together with the well. It only made the situation worse. Eugene went on to meet the Wariri tribe with Romilayu and becomes the Sungo, or “rain king”, when he lifts a heavy idol during the rain ceremony. Later on, the elders sent Dahfu to find a lion which is supposed to be the reincarnation of Dahfu’s late father. As he fails and is killed, Eugene is supposed to be crowned the King as he is the Rain King, the next King in line. Eugene does not desire to be king, and flees from Africa back to his own home. Eugene finds that it is only through love that he had gained all these while when he reflects on his relationship with Smolak the bear in Ontario and his relationship with the orphan boy on the plane back to the United States. The novel consists of twenty-two chapters of roughly equal length. Throughout the novel, flashbacks are used as a major element of. In the early stages of the novel, more precisely, in the first three chapters of the novel, Henderson’s reminiscence about his motives for departing for Africa. The setting in this novel is considerably uniform, however, throughout the entirety of the story, settings such as Europe, Connecticut, and New York are scattered randomly around. It is noticeable that the subsequent chapters are set in Africa, where most of the plot of the story develops. Through flashbacks, Eugene revisits his place of origin and time periods from his earlier life. Literary tools such as foreshadowing and cliffhangers are used to keep the reader flipping through the pages eagerly for more. Generally, throughout the most major parts of the story, the setting is held in Africa, in the mid-1950s. Scenes from Connecticut, New York City, and Europe during the Second World War are intermittent when Henderson’s rambling narratives take place. Actions which take place in Africa are mostly held in the Arnewi and Wariri...
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