Herzog a novel by Saul Bellow
Moses Herzog is a middle-aged professor. He is twice-divorced and father of two children. He is passing through a crisis bordering on a near breakdown. He is living in his country house in the Berkshires, a small village in Massachusetts. Moses says he is strangely content in the country writing letters to the famous, the dead and friends. However, these letters are never dispatched. ‘The story of Moses’ life comes out from his narratives in these letters and self-talk. They also seen through his ruminations and reminiscences. We come to know from his narrative that he is recently divorced from his second wife Madeline, who is in affair with Moses’ best friend Gersbach. Moses is a scholar of romanticism and has published a book titled ‘Romanticism and Christianity’.
Moses had bought a house in the Berkshires in order to please Madeline. He had spent 20,000 dollar inheritance from his father on this estate. He had also left his academic position of a professor at her request. He had intended to finish the second volume of his book in this country house. But Madeline is not quite happy in the country. She is a city-bred woman and she is not happy simply cooking, cleaning and looking after home.
Madeline decided that they should move to Chicago where her lover lived. Herzog had helped Gersbach in getting a radio job in Chicago. He did not know that Gersbach was Madeline’s lover. Madeline asked him for a divorce. Dr. Edwig, a psychiatrist helped Madeline to decide to seek divorce from Moses. Sandor Himmelstein, their lawyer offers Moses a place to stay after his divorce from Madeline.
Moses had two brothers Will and Shura. He also had a sister named Helen Moses was a Jew and he recalls his childhood and memories of racial discrimination. His father was a bootlegger. After getting divorce from Madeline, he borrows money from his brother Shura and goes to Europe to escape the pain of divorce. He returns from his trip in terrible condition He teaches classes in New York and at the end of the spring semester, he decides to escape his lover Ramona. He goes to Martha’s vineyard to see his friend Libbie Vane and her husband, He buys a fashionable outfit and swiming wear for his trip.
Moses’ introspective ruminations and reminiscences provide readers the glimpse into his life. Bellow has christened the protagonist of the novel. Moses, a great Jew leader who led the Jews to a Promised Land. According to the Old Testament, Pharaoh of Egypt had decreed that all Hebrew boy babies were to be killed. Moses’ mother placed Moses in a basket and set him adrift in the river. She hoped that someone would find him and rear him. Moses Herzog resembles the Biblical Moses as he is drifting across the United States. He is also drifting mentally and spiritually.
Moses is a failure in love with women. He tries to find happiness in women and sex but fails utterly. In fact, all women in his life cause deep pain. Moses marries but his marriages do not last long. His romantic idealism is shattered. He is highly emotional and reverts to love and sex in the times of need. Moses has many relationships but he finds no peace and happiness in any of them. He intends to have some sort of affair while at Martha’s vineyard.
Moses’ current lover Romana is beautiful and sensual. She is also well educated. She often lectures to Moses which he does not like at all. He sometimes escapes to the vineyard to get rid of her. He calls her a sexual priestess. He regards women and sex as a kind of religion. He thinks that it acts as a physical substitute for spiritual faith.
Moses is now on his way to Grand Central station from where he is going to catch a train to Martha’s vineyard. He continues to write letters while he is travelling. He looks up only to recollect from the storehouse of his memories. The chapter contains these letters. One of his first letters is to Tennie Madeline’s mother and his ex-mother-in-law. He writes in the letter that he had heard from his lawyer that she was upset as he had not visited her after divorce. He apologizes and says that he would soon arrange to visit hear. Moses feels sorry as she too had been divorced from Madeline’s actor father. Moses reaches Grand Central station where his writing bout stops. He remembers his childhood experience of subway train with his father and siblings at Montreal.
Still standing at the Grand Central platform, he writes a letter to aunt Zelda, Madeline’s aunt. He refers to Madeline’s attitude towards marriage. Then he writes to his good friend Lucas Asphalter who is very sad at the death of his pet monkey Rocco. Lucas loved his monkey so much that he tried to resuscitate mouth to mouth but in vain. Moses reveals in the letter that it was Lucas who had told him of Madeline’s affair with Gersbach. There is also mention of a letter from Geraldine, the baby-sitter of June, the daughter of Moses and Madeline.
On his train ride, Moses continues to write letters to friends, relatives, political personages and celebrities. He deals with variety of subjects from poverty in America to modern craze for development. He refers to Vinoba Bhave’s utopian movement of land-gifting (bhoodan). He thinks that he would love to join it. He writes to the president about taxes and their burden on the people. He writes letter to The New York Times about radiation. He also pens a letter to Dr. Emmet Strawworth about the evils of nuclear energy and the terrible aftermath in Hiroshima.
Moses writes a long letter to Dr. Edwig a psychiatrist who was instrumental in persuading Madeline to get divorce. He writes that Dr. Edwig has caused deep pain to him. He writes to her that Madeline has a warrant put on him so that he could not go near her house. He writes that Dr. Edwig was in love with Madeline. He thinks of June, his dear daughter whom he loved immensely.
In this chapter, it is mentioned that Madeline was converted to Christianity of which he did not approve. He also refers to his conversation with Gersbach in which he told about his sexual troubles with Madeline. Valentine Gersbach had reacted sharply at Moses’ attempts to have sex with Madeline. Moses now understands the reason that Gersbach had sexual relationship with his wife.
Bellow uses the idea of doubles in this novel. Tennie is Moses’ double. She is divorced like him. She tries to hide her sufferings by wearing fashionable clothes and casual trips to the seashore. Aunt Zelda had accused Moses of womanizing and having affairs. She believed that Madeline alone was not responsible for the breakup of their marriage. Madeline had affair with Gersbach but Moses too had affair with Ramona. Aunt Zelda says that Herzog means Duke and his attitude was dictatorial and cruel. Herzog was not cruel one but certainly fallen one.
In this chapter, we see that Herzog hates reality-instructors. He does not like to accept reality and face realism. He is romantic in the world of realists. He thinks, ruminates and idealizes all the time. Moses knows the limits of romantic idealism. He believes that romantics were wrong as they stressed on the uniqueness of the self and the individual. Moses believes that social ties are more important than an individual. Paradoxically, he lives in the world of individual idealism and fails in maintaining social ties. Theoretically he accepts that social relationships are the true anchorage of society and human life but practically, he fails to put them in practice.
As Moses travels to Martha’s vineyard on a ferry, he continues to write letters. He writes to the Governor and then to Ramona. He asks her not to take his trip in a wrong way. He tells her that he really cared for her. He thinks of marrying her but remembers that he has unfinished business with other women all over the world. He then writes to the Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the famous Negro leader Dr. Martin Luther King. Some of his letters remains unfinished. The longest letter he writes into Shapiro, the famous critic and writer whose monograph Moses hand reviewed while he was in Europe. While writing the letter to Shapiro, he remembers Shapiro’s visit to him and Madeline in Berkshires. Madeline talked endlessly with Shapiro. Valentine Gersbach who was present there also conversed with Shapiro quite effectively. Moses had remained mostly quiet. He thinks how Madeline turned into a scholar after pulling Moses away from his academic position. Moses writes that for her ideas and culture took place of religion. Moses further writes in his letter to Shapiro criticizing his aesthetic views of history. Then he writes a letter to his brother Shura.
The next long letter is addressed to Sandor Himmlestein who took in Moses where his wife Madeline divorced him. He remembers his conversation with Sandor Himmelstein about the custody of his daughter. Sandor had told him that he would never get the custody of the child as he looked quite disheveled and pale. He gave the impression of unstable personality. Sandor gets Moses to agree to an insurance policy that will give June a monthly allowance in case of his death or mental breakdown. This disturbed Moses because even Sandor thought that Moses was mentally unstable. They had verbal quarrel but Sandor wins as he is a tough lawyer. He is a realist. At the end of the fight, Sandor embraced him showing his “potato love”.
Moses is about to get on the ferry when he is struck by the beauty of nature around him. He is overwhelmed by the beauty of the ocean, the sun and the light. However, when he arrives at the vineyard, his mood swings to ennui and displeasure. He begins to think that he had made a mistake in coming there. Libbie waves at him and blows a kiss when he sees him coming. Moses feels guilty for planning to exploit her kindness. He decides to go back home. He leaves and returns to his bed at eleven that night. The third chapter ends with Geraldine’s letter. She has written that Valentine Gersbach and Madeline were fighting and Valentine locked June in the car. He left her crying while he went inside to Madeline. Moses appalled and aghast at the content of the letter, Geraldine was a baby sitter for little June.
Moses has tried to find salvation in his relationship with women but he has failed time and again. His trouble with women continues. He thinks of Ramona and wonders if his marriage with her would bring an end to his problems. Moses knows that he seeks salvation in marriage. While thinking of Ramona, he realizes that he has unfinished business with other women. In his letter to Shapiro, he criticizes a kind of intellectualism in which Shapiro indulges quite often. He writes that human suffering should be ignored in the name of artistic achievement. He expresses his displeasure at Shapiro’s “merely aesthetic critique of modern history.” He says that Shapiro’s aesthetic criticism is meaningless and absurd “after all the wars and mass killings.”
Moses’ criticism of Shapiro shows that in modern time, intellectuals talk of aestheticism and many others talk of development. In fact, modern history shows that worst violence and massacres have taken place during the 20th century. Shapiro and other intellectuals conveniently forget the Nazis and their inhuman killings of the Jews. Moses himself is a Jew and he reminds Shapiro of the killings of the Jews by the Nazis. Bellow writes about the Jewish American experience now and then in the novel. Moses criticism Shapiro for forgetting that his father was a peddler, “an immigrant, like Moses own bootlegger father.” Moses also writes that “richness of the blood” should not be forgotten. He suggests that one must be proud of one’s ancestral roots. Here Moses’ awareness of his Jewishness shows his own race consciousness that generates violence again and again. In finding Shapiro’s errors, he also shows that he is an intellectual seeking upward mobility.
In this section, Moses makes fun of the mere verbal description of modern age as “a wasteland and a place of alienation.” He says that modernity does not means the mere sense of isolation. It is also about struggle and a need for humanity.
Moses returns from Martha’s vineyard. The next morning, he starts writing letters. He writes to Monsignor Hilton who converted Madeline to the church. He waits that those who convert to other religion are trying to save themselves from nihilism in vain. One must stick to one’s religion and cultural roots. It is no use grouping in the darkness. Moses remembers that he was separated from his first wife Daisy. They were in Philadephia Ren. He worked in New York and commuted to visit his son Marco three or four times a week. Moses was in bad state and he took sleeping bills and drank to soothe his upset stomach. He often slept with a Japanese woman named Sono Oguki.
Moses remembers that he wanted to marry Madeline and visited her parents Pontritter and Tennie. Pontritter preferred to be called Fritz Madeline hated her parents. Here parents thought that Moses would prove to be a good husband for her. He would save Madeline from instability of mind. Madeline had a turbulent childhood. She did not like her mother’s undying support and surrender to her husband, Fritz often maltreated his wife and Madeline. Madeline also talked of sexual abuse but did not open up completely on that topic.
Moses then remembers his life with Madeline. He was separated from Daisy and married to Madeline. She was now converted to Christianity. They lived in Berkshires on a farm house bought by Moses with his inheritance from his father.
Madeline had become a die-hard Christian often talking arguing about its superiority over other religions. This intolerant religiosity disturbed Moses. He thought it was two theatrical. She fights over money and insists that they should follow Christian rituals for their wedding. Eventually they got married as she desired. They now lived on a Berkshires farm house. Madeline was, now pregnant and did not like servitude of the house work.
Moses remembers how Daisy and Madeline were different from each other. Daisy was cool and conservative Jewish woman. She was an organized person from the country. In fact, it was Moses who was quite disorganized and untidy. Moses’ disorganized way of life ended in their divorce. Otherwise Daisy was a good homemaker.
Moses’ mind is now crowded with childhood memories. He remembers how he and his friend Nachman grew up in Napoleon street. He remembers that Nachman’s father was a failure in business. He also remembers several other persons of his family and acquaintances. He remembers Ravitch a melancholic alcoholic who sang loudly when he was drunk. His aunt Zipporah was a realist and she has more money than Moses’ father.
Moses remembers that Moses had loaned Nachman money many years ago when they were in Paris. Nachman needed money to go to America to meet and marry his beloved Laura. Laura was a neurotic woman who ended up in an insane asylum. Moses thinks that she probably might have committed suicide as she had an uncontrollable suicidal tendency.
This section deals mainly with Madeline and Moses’ childhood memories. Madeline is a fervent convert with non-secular attitude. She always focused on the external. Bellow criticizes the attitude of the people who ignore the internal and focus on the external appearance only Madeline is a modern woman who feels constricted by her house and household duties. Bellow seems to suggest that in the name of feminism and modernism, home and familial duties should never be ignored because ultimately true happiness lies in the family bond and love for home.
In a very lively section of the novel, Moses recalls his childhood home, neighbourhood and people around him. His family lived in Napoleon street where there were many immigrants from different countries. He describes their struggles, language and life style. Moses loved his family very much. The section ends with the thought of Laura’s probable death. Love and death are inseparable. Death is a major focus in the novel often looming over happy moments.
Section-5 describes Moses’ break in the spell of writing letters. The spell is broken by the phone ringing. Ramona is calling asking him whether he had gone to Berkshires or not. She invites him to her house. During the phone call, she gives him sermons on self-confidence and mentions her aunt Tamara with whom she lives. On the subway going to Ramona’s house, Moses has a feeling of communion with entire humankind, a sublime feeling of love and compassion. This is what others call ‘potato love’ ridiculing him.
Ramona looks a grand meal for Moses and plays Egyptian music. While having dinner, Moses talks about his problem and about Madeline, Gersbach, Phoebe and Geraldine’s letter about June, his dearest child, Ramona seems to know everything that Moses tells her. She tries to tempt him away from these thoughts. She seems to invite him to sex but while she prepares herself in the bathroom, more thoughts invade Moses. He thinks of modern man’s predicament.
Moses and Ramona sleep together. Moses thinks of Ramona’s ex-boy friend George Hoberly. He is an assistant television producer. He pines intensely for Ramona. He sends her gifts frequently to win her back. He has attempted suicide twice. The chapter ends with Moses describing Ramona as she sleeps. Letters punctuate this section. Before he leaves for Ramona’s house, he writes to Eisenhover about the cold war. He writes about a monograph on ethical ideas of American business. He quotes Tolstoi, Pascal, Hegel and other philosophers. He discusses the process of self awareness and the inward worlds of Americans. On the way to Ramona’s house, Moses writes to a bank robber. After arriving at her house, he writes to Spinoza about the pain caused by unconnected and haphazard thinking.
Ramona poses as Moses saviour. Previously, Moses was meant to be Madeline’s savior. Now it is Ramona who acts as Moses’ saviour. She wants to save Moses from his problems. Resurrection is a Biblical idea of rising from the dead. Ramona is said to experience Easter and resurrection with Moses, Moses is upset with Ramona as she does not see him as an American. She says, “you’re not a true puritanical American,” Moses wonders, what else he is if not American. Moses belongs to Russian Jewish heritage. He has an American identity. He belongs to both and not fully belonging to either.
In his letter to Eisenhover, Moses talks about Hegel’s idea of history. Hegel said that essence of human life is derived from history. History is a memory of the past. For Moses, mere external life of the nation is not important. The inward lives of the people should be taken into account in history. He feels that thoughts may be painful but they are the only cure to all problems and salvation for mankind.
In Ramona’s house, there is a grand clock made of porcelain and gold. It belongs to aunt Tamara. Moses says that this type of clock symbolizes permanence and stability. There she needs to have a permanent residence and regular habits. Moses realizes that the clock belongs to aunt Tamara and not to Ramona. He feels that in marrying Ramona, he was seeking stability falsely as she herself does not have stability.
Section-6 starts with Moses and Ramona taking breakfast and then going to flower shop where she works. As they step out of the cab, they kiss, Moses finds himself happy for a moment but his moment of pleasure disappears soon. He gets into the cab alone leaving Ramona at the flower shop. He decides to attend Parents’ day at his son’s camp. He also decides to talk to Simkin the lawyer about Geraldine’s information that Valentine Gersbach had maltreated June cruelly.
Moses talks to Simkin the lawyer at length. Simkin says that Valentine Gersbach should have the guardianship of June. Moses remembers how Valentine had lighted candles for his son Ephraim and danced with the boy in happiness. There was an expression of pure love on his face. He remembers Madeline’s expression at the scene and realizes that it was an expression of true love.
Moses remembers his mother saying that mankind was made from the soil. The Bible says that Adam was made from the soil. She showed Moses the circle of dirt that arose when she rubbed her hands repeatedly. Moses recalls his mother’s death. He thinks of her as a strong, modern woman. He thinks of Daisy’s mother who now lived in a home for the elderly in senile condition.
Moses goes to the courtroom to meet Simkin. In the cab, the taxi driver recognizes Moses as the man who had kissed beautiful woman earlier that day. The taxi driver admired Moses taste in women. Once in the court house, he witness several trials. There are various cases of assault, robbery, sexual misconduct etc. There were also trials of a male prostitute and other crimes. After watching all these cases, Moses feels utterly nauseated. He feels bitterness in his blood. He sweats a lot bile and vomit rise up in his mouth.
This chapter refers to death. There is a mention of a telegram Moses sent to Gersbach that read “Dirt Enters At The Heart”. The first letters of the words in the telegram spell the word DEATH. Moses thinks of his mother’s death. He also thinks of impending death of Daisy’s mother. In the court, Moses witnesses the trial of a mother accused of killing her child. Death seems to surround him and he feels that in order to continue, one must overcome the fear of death. The idea of death causes nausea in Moses. At one point he says,
“Things would change. When we have come to better terms with death, we’ll wear a different expression, we human beings, our looks will change. When we come to terms.”
Moses is now depressed at the idea of death but he is optimistic that he will eventually overcome the fear of death. There are moments of love that also dominate this section. Moses kisses Ramona in public. He experiences how the feeling of love makes one happy. He remembers Valentine’s maltreatment of his daughter June but he also remembers Valentine’s expression of love for his son. At that moment, he feels that Madeline really loved Gersbach. Moses is appalled by evil deeds of mankind but also feels that love exists as a counter force. He feels that there is a need for Justice, Mercy and Love for mankind to survive.
In Section Seven, Moses watches the murder trial of the mother in the court. He decides to go to Chicago to see his daughter June and confront Madeline and Valentine. He boards a plane and goes to Chicago. Before going to Madeline’s house, he stops at his own old home where his father used to live with his step mother Tante Taube. His father Jonah is dead but his step mother still lived there. Moses remembers his own youth in the company of his step mother. Moses looks at the pictures of his family and Taube. There is a picture of Moses in school uniform. His father looks like an American. He drifts into the memories of childhood and youth. He remembers the day when his father had got angry with him and waved a gun at him. When Moses requested his father to under write a loan, he asked him about his job, money and life.
Moses’s step mother Taube tells him that she had saved him on that day. Moses goes to the desk where his father kept his gun. He takes it out wrapped in old worthless Russian rubles. He even thinks of killing Valentine and Madeline. He drinks from his father’s cup and leaves the house. He drives to Harper Avenue where Madeline lives. He does not go inside but looks through the kitchen. He sees Madeline. Then he goes to the bathroom window and sees Valentine bathing June. At first he is angry but he finds that Valentine takes a genuine care of her, his feelings change. He realizes that his feelings of killing Valentine and Madeline were only foolish thoughts.
Moses then goes to meet Phoebe Gersbach, Valentine’s former wife. He wants her to help in gaining the custody of June. Phoebe does not agree to it and says that Valentine was never bad husband. However, at the end, she feels sympathetic towards Moses. That night Moses stays at Lucas Asphalter’s house and feels a kind of potato love for him. It is a sudden spurt of love and common sympathy.
At Moses’ request, Lucas arranges a meeting between Moses and June. Madeline agrees but places a condition that Lucas picks up June and Moses should join them later. Lucas tells him how upset he was at the death of his monkey. He says that it is necessary to face death. Lucas explains an exercise to Moses in which he says that one must pretend that one is dead and then confront all of those people in life with absolute truth.
This chapter 7 shows how Moses has undergone a change. He says that as one faces death, one changes inevitably. There are no letters written by Moses in this section as he is in the company of the people. Moses’s changes are apparent. He has come to terms with death. He does not care anymore for his dress or appearance. He becomes more objective. He is angry with Valentine but when he sees him curing for June, he is quite mellowed down. He feels no grudge for him much, when he visits his father’s house, he takes out his pistol and drinks from his cup. He acts like his father’s double. He has taken out the gun only symbolically. It is a mere expression of annoyance and not the feeling of hatred. Bellow suggests that we human beings live by playing many roles. Life is an act, a play that we play all time. Looking at the pictures of his family at his step mother’s house, he sees his relatives in different costumes. People, he thinks, act according to different stages of their lives, necessities and roles that time imposes on them.
In Section 8 Moses finally meets his daughter June. He is filled with painful joy. June’s love for him fills him with immense joy. She talks about Valentine whom she calls uncle Val. She tells him that he is quite loving and amicable. She adds that she likes Valentine as he makes funny faces and make her laugh. She also tells Moses that he does not tell as many stories as Moses does. She tells Moses that Madeline had told June not to talk about Valentine as it would offend him. Moses, however, tells her that she can say whatever she likes. She does not want to make June feel awkward. He says that he will not ask her any questions about Valentine. Then he tells her a story about a boy whose freckles stand for stars.
Moses gives June a periscope which she likes very much. He is proud of her daughter’s intellectual level. She makes her a happy and proud father. Then he takes her to an aquarium. June’s visit brings to Moses the memories of Jonah Herzog’s funeral As June and Moses are on their way back from the aquarium in a car, they meet an accident. June is quite safe but Moses is left unconscious and his rented car is also damaged.
The police inquiry finds unlicenced gun in Moses’ possession. The gun was taken from his father’s desks for irrational and sentimental reasons. The sergeant says that they will call Madeline to pick up June. Moses objects but the police insist that June is picked up by her mother only. Madeline picks up June while the police is still questioning him. Moses too wanted to evade her. He did not want to confront her. He says good bye to June. Moses has to give bond of 300 dollars and he is taken to the cell. He calls his brother Will to bail him out.
Moses thinks that he had put June’s life in danger unnecessarily. He wanted to save her from Valentine but in fact he put her life in danger. He blames himself for his undue sentimentalism. He thinks that he has become overly emotional. He fears that June will remember this traumatic incident all her life. He too remembers that once he was raped but he never told anyone about it.
While writing for his brother Will to bail him out Moses writes several letters. He writes a letter to Dr. Edwig, another to Ramona and yet another to God. Will comes and bails him out. He shows great concern for Moses. Will takes him to a doctor who tapes his broken rib. Will and Moses talk about Moses’ property in Ludey ville. He calls it burdensome but pleasurable property. Will promises that he will pass by the house at a later date in order to see it while he will be on his way to Boston.
In this section, Moses analyzes himself more objectively and dispassionately. He realizes that he has over-reacted at the report that Valentine has behaved cruelly with June. In fact, June loved Valentine and had not grudge against him. His attitude to her has been quite fatherly and kind. He realized that he had been over emotional and harboured melodramatic assumptions. He had even thought of killing Valentine and Madeline by shooting with the gun. He blames himself for his emotionalism and over-reaction. Moses has now realized that the world is full of ambiguities. It is a grand mixture of good and evil. One can just label things as good or bad. Life is a mixture of the terrible as well as the sublime. He was always plagued by ambiguities. Now he accepts the fact that good and bad coexist in juxtaposition. It is full of paradoxes and uncertainties. Earlier Moses had said that
It existence is a nausea, then faith is an uncertain relief. In his letter to God, he writes that God is the king of Death and Life. He accepts that God rules over these two polarities Life and Death. Perhaps Moses has learnt from the car accident that death can arrive any moment. He had been face to face with death in the car accident. In this chapter, the theme of death dominates. Moses thinks of his father’s funeral. He also remembers slaughtering of chickens. He also remembers his own experience of sexual molestation. Sexual molestation amounts to death. By facing all these manifestations of death and violence, he comes to turns with them when he says that there are too many dead, he refers to T.S. Eliot who speaks of undone masses.
Moses’ house in Ludeyville becomes the place where he will go as a new man with renewed life. It is a place both pleasurable and burdensome. He accepts the fact that there is no 100% pleasure or happiness anywhere.
In section 9, Moses is back in his old country home in Ludeyville. The house is in untidy condition. The garden is overgrown and lawn unmowed. He feels happy at home. He finds traces of his old life in the house. Madeline had bought canned goods and got bathroom shower railing fitted especially for Valentine. Moses notices that the lovers have occupied the house while he was gone. They had chosen his room to sleep He writes letter and this time, he wants to send them. He writes a letter to Ramona expressing an apology, of course with his usual philosophical ruminations. He writes to Marco to join Moses in the summerhouse at Ludeyville. Moses asks his friend Lucas to post the letters to Ramona to hide his address. He does not want her to know where he is. After writing the letters that he wants to send, he writes letters that he does not want to send. He writes to Mermestein about his book, truth and the nature of suffering. He writes reconciliation letters to Madeline and Valentine. He writes a letter to the famous philosopher Nietzsche. He tells him that his ideas are no better than those of the Christianity he condemns. He criticizes Nietzsche for his fake views. Moses continues to ruminate and rant for a while but then he speaks of his contentment and joy.
Moses’ brother Will arrives at Ludeyville. He has thus fulfilled his promise. The brothers discuss about the house and Will says that it is better to put the house for sale. Moses however does not agree to it. He tries to look sane and normal. Still his brother Will and his sister are worried about Moses’ mental health. They suggest that he should check in the hospital for examination and monitoring. Moses thinks about it but refuses to go to the hospital at last. Moses asks his brother Will to take him to the Tuttles, the most efficient couple in Ludeyville. While they are at the Tuttles’ house, Moses receives a message from Ramona. He is informed that she is in the town. After talking to Ramona, he meets her and introduces her to Will. Moses invites her over to the dinner. Later, Will warns him not to make the same mistake he had made with women. Moses assures him that there is no chance that he will repeat the mistake.
The novel ends with Moses getting ready for Ramona’s dinner visit. He is preparing the meal for her while Mrs. Turtle is cleaning. Moses feels that he has finished letter writing. He needs to write no more letters. The novel ends with the words:
“At this time, he had no message, for anyone. Nothing
Not a single word”.
At the beginning of this section, Moses refers to P.B. Shelley’s famous sonnet “Ozymandias.” It is a poem about a fallen city and its ruler in Egypt. Ozymandias was a mighty king and his kingdom was once a prosperous state. Now there is a huge desert stretching across miles and miles. The ruins of the statue of Ozymandias lie in the desert. His glorious edifice now lies in crumbled state. The head with stern face and frown lies half buried in the sand. On the pedestal lying nearby is an inscription which reads:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty and despair!”
This reference suggests that Moses has also fallen from his nobility that he prized most. He is a scholar with profound knowledge of philosophy. He is a unique intellectual with his views on almost all topics. However, he has failed in maintaining nobility, composure and dignity. He has wavered constantly. Now, this makes Moses realize that no one is infallible. Even the mighty is fallible and prone to make mistakes in life. Everyone however great one may be has to ultimately fall and die. This is the destiny of all human beings on earth. Moses’ realization of this makes him calm and tranquil at the end.
Moses, whether he becomes happy or not at the end of the novel is something that we are not sure of. But acceptance of human fallibility gives him a kind of peace. He opens the windows of the house and lets the sun in. This gesture shows his changed perception. He also knows that this state may not be permanent. He admits that the bitter cup would come round again, by and by.” He is now ready to accept the bitter cup of life as the part and parcel of human existence. He realizes that the moments of joy and peace will inevitably alternate with moments of pain. He now feels that he will not deceive himself by expecting ‘external state of bliss, peace and love. He has now realized that true happiness comes from calm acceptance of reality.
Moses stops writing letters. This demonstrates his newfound mental health. He has come to understand himself fully. Now he is ready to interact with the world, not just himself. It is human to interact and communicate with our fellowmen. To love human beings with their weakness is the true panacea to all the problems that plague the world. Moses will now write letters that he will post, not just write and never send.
At the end of the novel, he is preparing dinner for Ramona, the dinner that differs from the one he shared with her in the beginning of the novel. He now feels that he will not make his old mistake of trying to find salvation from sex and women. He used sex as an escape from miseries and loneliness. He realizes that like many ordinary people, he too has exploited women instead of giving them true love and respect that they deserves. The novel ends with changed Herzog. Change in perception and attitude to life is the true transformation of man. Bellow suggests that it is the need of us all to save ourselves from neurosis that is gripping modern man.