Works, D Period
A Novel Failure: The Unsuccessful Story of Tommy Wilhelm
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow is a novella written about failure and bad judgment. The protagonist, Tommy Wilhelm, has made mistakes all his life by “invariably [taking] the course he had rejected innumerable times” (Bellow 19). He constantly frustrates his successful father who resides in the same hotel as Wilhelm by living in disarray, depending on drugs, begging for help and sympathy, and throwing away his (not-very-hard-earned) money. Wilhelm is now middle-aged, but he has not yet done anything productive with his life: “He was aware that he hadn’t applied his mind strictly to anything” (Bellow 68). Laziness, refusal to take the blame for his own mistakes, and bad judgment are some of his worst qualities. Tommy Wilhelm is an imprudent, unsuccessful, emotional disappointment.
Wilhelm always trusts the wrong people. He admittedly makes “‘the same mistake, [he gets] burned again and again’” even after his father explicitly warns him not to get involved with certain untrustworthy people (Bellow 105). He believes his whole existence has been a string of mistakes because he put too much faith in rotten people. A talent scout failed at helping him become famous, his wife destroyed his marriage, the nepotistic company stole his job, a lying doctor called Tamkin screwed him over financially, et cetera, et cetera. It is foolish and unthinking of Wilhelm to invest everything he has in a person or thing over and over again until finally, he has nothing left to throw away. Wilhelm’s imprudent behavior is a major factor in his failure to be productive. Under no circumstances could Wilhelm be considered anything other than a failure. His life is lonely and miserable, he is poor and unemployed, and people have no objection to stepping all over him and taking advantage of him. Wilhelm lives in a wealth-driven world, but he has no wealth. First he tries his hand at...