Herzog Characters List
Table of Contents
(1) Moses Herzog
The protagonist of the novel, he is a man in his mid-forties. He is passing through a breakdown after his divorce from his second wife Madeline. The novel takes place in his mind through his memories of the past and the letters he writes to newspapers, friends and relatives. He also writes letters to people in public life even to the dead. Many of these letters are unfinished and fragmentary. They provide outlet to his inner conflicts. He writes letters but does not send them. He is a scholar well-read and contemplative. He is an idealist, who messes up ideals and realities. He does not practise what he thinks and preaches. His jumbled thoughts, he is trying to straighten up. At the end, he reaches a stage of reconciliation with his own life seeking solace in nature and acceptance of realities of life. He prefers humanity to escapism from struggles of life.
Daisy was Moses‘ first wife and the mother of Marco, her child by Moses. Daisy is conservative but a highly organized home maker. She looked after Moses and home very well. She comes from Jewish background, the same as that Moses. She is exactly the anti-thesis of Moses’ second wife Madeline. Moses’ own life was quite disorderly and chaotic. This brought out the worst in Daisy. She could not tolerate such an unorganized way of life
After divorcing Daisy, Moses began to love Madeline. She became his second wife. She bore a beautiful daughter June. Madeline has been described as neurotic antagonist. She creates chaos and miseries in Moses’ life. Of course, Moses too is equally responsible. Madeline is a modern woman who believes in freedom and individualism of a woman. She refuses to live like her mother who had been a docile, servile homemaker. After her marriage with Moses, she loses her attraction for him. She falls for Moses! best friend Valentine Gersbach. She has an affair with him. She divorces Moses and begins to live with Valentine. She even refuses to give custody of June to him. This makes him utterly miserable. He thinks that Valentine maltreats June but he goes to Madeline’s house and sees secretly that Valentine in a good caretaker. Even June tells him that Valentine is a nice man. When he takes June with him, they meet with an accident in a car fortunately, June is unhurt, only Moses is injured. Later he thinks that if June had been injured, he would have never forgiven himself. He holds himself responsible for his carelessness and mental instability. Madeline hates her father who was a famous actor. She was converted to Christianity but later she turned to the world of ideas. The character of Madeline is not impressive. It seems that Saul Bellow did not depict the characters of women quite sympathetically. Some critics believe that in Herzog, the portrayal of women is objective. For Moses, women mark the various stages on the road to self-improvement.
(4) Valentine Gersbach
Valentine Gersbach is Moses’ friend. After divorce from Moses, Madeline maries Gersbach with June, a daughter by Moses and Madeline. Earlier, Valentine and his wife lived in the neighbourhood of Moses and Madeline. It is here that they have an affair. Valentine proves to be a better husband and lover than Moses. When Moses hear that June is mal treated by Valentine, he is quite upset and angry. He takes the pistol of his father and thinks of shooting him. However, he sees Valentine bathing June lovingly, his attitude changes. Even June tells Moses that Valentine was a kind man, caring and loving. Moses thinks that his failed marriage is the result of Valentine’s affair with Madeline. However, at the end, he introspects and makes amends in his own attitude.
(5) Phoebe Gersbach
Phoebe is Valentine’s wife. She is quite devoted and caring, She fails to see the truth about her husband’s affair with Madeline. She defends her husband and sees no faults in him. She has a child by Valentine.
She is Moses’ lover. She is Argentinian. She is beautiful, well-educated and devoted to Moses. Moses calls her “a priestess of love and sex.” She cooks fine meals for Moses. She looks after Moses and even follows him to the country. Moses rethinks about his relationship with her. He realizes that he has treated her as an escape from his inner instability and conflicts.
Moses loves his daughter June very much. She is his daughter by Madeline. She is a lovely child who is capable of tender love. She shows her affection for Moses. She is wise enough not to offend him by mentioning her mother Madeline or Valentine. However when Moses presses her to say something about Valentine, she says that he is a nice, loving man. Moses takes her with him in a car. The car meets an accident. Moses is injured but June is quite unhurt.
Marco is Moses’ son by first marriage. He is older than June. He is at a camp throughout the novel. On parents day, he is not at home but at the camp. Marco blames Moses for frequent divorces and unhappy marriage. Even at such a small age, he has his own opinion about Moses. At the end of the novel, Moses decides to visit his son Marco.
(9) Jonah Herzog
He is Moses’ father. He belongs to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He had moved his family to Canada and raised his children in the slums of Montreal on Napoleon street. He worked hard to support his family of five members. However, he could not provide them enough. He ended up working as a boot-legger. He did not succeed in boot-legging also. He was quick-tempered and made empty threats. Once he had threatened Moses with a gun. He was in fact, a kind hearted man who loved his family, He left Moses 2,000 dollars with which he bought a house in the countryside. Moses often remembered his father label the smuggled bottles of liquor.
(10) Mother Herzog
Bellow does not give the name of Herzog’s mother. She is simply called Mother Herzog, She belonged to a higher class of Russia. But after immigrating to Canada, she had to work as a seamstress and washer woman. She supported her husband and worried about him. She looked after her children very lovingly. She made sure that they grew in Jewish traditions. She wanted them to be well educated and well placed in society. Moses loved her very much and remembered her words about death. She was a deeply religious woman.
She was Moses’s step mother. She was the second wife of Jonah Herzog. She had been widowed twice and lived alone in an old house, she used to share with Jonah. She had married a rich wholesaler named Kaplitzky. She had played the role of an excellent rich, childless woman. Now she is old and lives alone. Moses meets her sharing the memories of her life. She was the lone survivor who fought against death among the old timers in Herzog household.
Shura is Moses’ rich brother. He is a businessman with practical sense and business acumen. He is quite different from Herzog. He is a realist and unsentimental. He does not hesitate in giving money to Moses. Moses thinks that he is proud and despises others but in fact, he loves Moses and helps him frequently Moses too loves him like other siblings.
Will is Moses’ brother. He is always willing to help Moses in difficulties, both financially and emotionally. He worries a lot about Moses’ mental health. He bails Moses out of jail after the car accident. He offers to take him to a psychiatrist for treatment. Moses too loves him.
She is Moses’s sister who is only referred to in the novel. She does not make physical appearance. Like her brother Will, she is also worried about Moses’ mental health.
She is Jonah Herzog’s sister. She is a powerful dominating woman. She is a kind of matriarch. She is successful in managing her real estate business. She is very punctual and does not like disorderly way of life. She is a very strict taskmaster. She is quite hard on Jonah, her brother. She inspects his household and his children. Moses recalls her tough behaviour bordering on cruelty. However, she is quite caring and well-meaning,
He is a childhood friend of Moses. He is a poor man. He is a symbol love, loss and suffering. He is quite sentimental and utterly romantic. He loved an unstable woman. Later she was placed in an institution.
(17) Lucas Asphalter
He is also a childhood friend of Moses. He symbolises true friendship. He has a pet monkey called Rocco, when the monkey dies, he becomes utterly miserable. He gives Moses a place to stay and tells him about Madeline’s affair with Valentine
(18) Dr. Edwig
Dr. Edwig is a psychiatrist who treated Moses during his mental sickness during the last days of his marriage with Madeline. Moses thinks that like other people, Dr. Edwig had also betrayed him. He called him mentally unstable and incapable to looking after June.
(19) Sandor Himmelstein
He is a famous lawyer in Chicago. Moses stayed with him after his divorce from Madeline. Moses believed that like Dr. Edwig, he too sided with Madeline questioning his mental health. He also believed that Moses should not get the custody of his daughter June as he is not mentally stable and capable of tending her and raising her in a happy, healthy manner.