Saul Bellow Seize the Day the Water Imagery

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Topics: Soul
Water Imagery in Seize the Day

Saul Bellow's Seize the Day is one of the most profoundly sad novels to be written since Tender is the Night. On this day of reckoning, during the seven hours or so that comprise the action of the novel, all the troubles that constitute the present condition of Wilhelm Adler descend upon him and crush him, leaving him penniless, alone, and in such profound misery that one can hardly imagine his going on. He is, as he says, at the end of his rope. This has been one of those days, he says to his wife, May I never live to go through another like it. We feel that he may not live at all, so great is his misery, so completely has he been destroyed.
Yet if we look more deeply, more accurately, we see that the meaning of the novel only begins here, that beneath this profound and moving sense of despair is the birth of a soul, Wilhelm's, and that Bellow, far from having depicted the defeat of man, has given us one of his most moving accounts of the conditions under which he can hope to be victorious. Wilhelm does not emerge triumphantly out of his troubles; but the very sufferings they cause him have brought his soul into being: Wilhelm's pretender soul has died, his real soul has been born. It may not live long. Although Bellow takes us no further than the birth, Marcus Klein [in The Kenyon Review, Spring 1962] has pointed out that At the moment of death, his motion is toward existence, the vitality that defines and unites everyone, and his weeping is an acceptance of it and therefore an act of love toward life.
Yet this is by no means obvious. In fact, on a first or even a second reading, the opposite seems to be true. Wilhelm's seemingly deliberate attempts to ruin his own life, his own complete abandonment to tears at the end, both of these seem to point more to a love of death. Only after we have entered Bellow's world, after we have begun to grasp the craft with which this remarkable novel is written, can we understand the truth

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