Seize the Day by Saul Bellow - Hand Notes For 4th Year

Mofizur Rahman

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow - Hand Notes For 4th Year English Department (National University)

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow - Hand Notes For 3rd Year


English Department
Honours 4th Year
American Literature Fiction and Drama.
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
Broad Question and Answer (Part: C)

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

In Seize the Day, the protagonist is a victimized hero. Do you agree?

Do you consider  Wilhelm   a victimized hero in Soul Bellow's Seize the Day.

Ans. In the novella" Seize the Day" by Saul Bellow Tommy Wilhelm is a middle aged, modern man, who is considered to be a victimized hero of modern Society because it is the materialistic modernity which makes him isolated from the human community for being unsuccessful in his earthly life. The theme of victimization is expressed through conflict between internal and external, modern complications and images.

In the novella" Seize the Day" we find Wilhelm as a modern hero who is quite frustrated about his present life because he could not make money or wealth likewise his father Dr. Adler. He makes quite a few mistakes while making choices about his life which eventually lead him to be a complete failure.  Once he has cherished the high flying Ambitions of American dream in his mind. Therefore, he seeks the short cut way to be wealthy in his life. But in real life, he is unsuccessful because he takes the wrong choices about his life.

First of all, he left his college in order to be a Hollywood actor, his father warns him about the negativity  of Hollywood,  but he eventually motivated by the hypocrite "Maurice Vanice" who persuaded him to invest money in Hollywood. Maurice motivated him by saying that he has a physical charms and striking features which could bring a position for him in Hollywood. However, he was deceived by so called director who actually runs the business of prostitution in the name of  film making.

Secondly,  his tragic mistake is he was confused about marrying the materialistic women Margarete, but eventually he gets married to her which makes his earthly existence is completely miserable. His wife shows no love to him. She puts pressure on him for giving her money and she does not grant him divorce thus he cannot marry the women Olive with whom he was truly in love. That is why, we finds him as a victim hero who is broken both emotionally and psychologically.

Furthermore, he invests his last savings of 500 dollar in a commodity market because Dr. Tamkin makes him understand that he could still make a fortune and becomes a rich man by making investment in the field of share business. However, he got the deception from Dr. Tamkin and becomes a destitute after losing his last hope of savings to Tamkin.

Therefore, he appears as a failure to the Society, to his wife even to his father. He has been a helpless man, suffering from existential crisis and he is desperately  seeking his identity and meaningful survival. He goes  into many debts, seeks help to his father  but his father brutal treatment put him into down in the dumps. He says his father with a tone of frustration " What do I expect?.. I expect help! But instead of giving a helping hand to him, his father mocking him for being unsuccessful. Thus, he realizes that Only money is the matter because he raised in a society where people adore only money. While arguing with his father he utters the phrase out of anger " The money makes the difference".

He believes If he had money, his father would be proud of him. As he lacks of money thus his father is ashamed on him. He also says that 

" Everyone was supposed to have money.
They would be ashamed not to have it."Finally he says
"The water of the earth going to roll over me"

Throughout the novella we find the protagonist Wilhelm as a drowning man who is a victim of a society where only making money is matter. He realizes, the society whose only god is money is not for him .He has nothing to be a part of this society; he is isolated from the society and he only finds connection of his life with a death man in a funeral procession. He finds the ultimate solace of  his soul in a funeral possession where he cries his eyes out for an unknown death person because he relates his life to the unknown person who is death. Likewise the Death man, Wilhelm is also death mentally, spiritually and psychologically.

In conclusion, I can tell you that, In the novella SEIZE THE DAY by Saul Below we find Wilhelm as a victimized hero because he makes many mistakes in his own life thus he could not be prosperous like his father Dr. Adler, for this reason the modern society rejects him. Therefore, he suffer from existence crisis and turns into a  victim hero of modernity.

Examine the ending of Seize the Day and explain whether or not Tommy Wilhelm finds consolation and salvation at the end.

Ans. Wilhelm, throughout the novel, longs for/desire/want freedom. He will achieve such "freedom." and "salvation through realizing the persons around him, understanding his own position, becoming free from the "pretended soul" and feeling love for humanity. Bellow is not afraid to have his character talk about feeling and emotions. He shifts from the Hemingway style that he takes the reader inside the head and emotions of the characters. Bellow moves the action inward which helps achieve a stylistic feat.

The first way for Wilhelm to gain consolation and salvation is to understand the persons around him. Wilhelm at first does not understand the inner life of his father and his thoughts , but he is attracted to the way in which the eccentric  Dr. Tamkin thinks. But gradually it is very clear that his father is always hiding Wilhelm's position to other persons. Dr. Adler lies saying that Wilhelm is a sales representative and his income is above five hundred dollars only to express his vain glory. 

On the other hand, Dr. Tamkin at first seems to Wilhelm to be a way  to be rich but as time passes, Dr. Tamkin takes his last dollars and wastes it and at last, he goes to a hiding place. Then Wilhelm can understand the psychological complications and achieves his consolation and freedom. Another way for Wilhelm to gain salvation and consolation is to come out of the present shell of his own self. Wilhelm must stop playing the "roles" he has been holed into and he must find the person that he really is. For instance, throughout the book, he is seen, and sees himself, as "Dr. Adler's son."

Dr. Adler needs to abandon him. Later, Tommy becomes attached /associated  to Tamkin and the same disattachment is necessary. He needs also to release himself from money's grip/trap (Lài) and so he must lose all of his money to unhinge  its leash/chain . Further still, he needs to release himself from Margaret, not from his obligations as a father, but from his victimization of her. In short, the paradox lies in the fact that one must lose everything in order to be free.

An important way for Wilhelm to get consolation and salvation is to free him from pretension To answer this question one must answer what it means to be free, at least within the context of the novel. Tamkin claims, in Chapter IV, that man is tied down by social control, egotism, vanity, and most importantly by the conflict between the "pretender soul" and the true soul. The "pretender soul," continues Tamkin, is attached to social control.

Moreover, although Tamkin's language is mocked in many ways, Tamkin is nevertheless expressing some kind of truth. To use Tamkin's words, to be free, Tommy must free himself of his mask; allow his true soul to replace the "pretender". In the last scene at the sight of coffin and dead body Wilhelm cries in such a way that everybody around him think him to be relative of the dead man. That means he has come out from his pretended soul.

The other and final element that frees Tommy is that of love. Once Tommy knows who he is than he can find solidarity with the rest of society and becomes part of the "larger body" of humanity, instead of always being isolated in the crowd. In the end Tommy feels love for the people around him, as in Times Square, and he feels love for the stranger in the coffin. It is a beautiful irony that the self-same society that constricted him can, in the end, be a freeing force also.

So it can be said that at the end Wilhelm gains salvation and salvage through the disillusionment about the harsh reality of the modern world. Like Jesus Christ he commits sin at first and at last gains redemption.

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow (Novel) Central Idea and Critical Comment

Seize The Day is a masterpiece of famous American writer Saul Bellow. Tommy Wilhelm is the central character of Seize The Day. He is above forty. His past and present bitter experience and great mistakes have been discussed very tactfully in this novel. His father aged, rich, successful Dr. Adler and he lives at hotel Gloriana. The mentality of Tommy and his father is totally different. Professionally Dr. Adler is very successful man. He is very well-known doctor in New York. On the other hand, Tommy has failed in every sectors of his life.

The repetition of great mistakes has changed the life pattern of Tommy. Tommy is not a rebellious character. Actually he is a victim of mechanic society. He has been focused as an existentialist. He always feels insecure and frustration. He is victim of nothingness, fear, depression, loneliness, monotony and thought of death. He is theist in spite of having trouble torn min Oh, God, Let me out of my trouble. Let me out of my thoughts And let me do something better with myself. For all time I have wasted I am Very sorry. Let me out of this clutch and into a different life.

He cannot present his hidden grief before his father and his wife. All his previous decisions have gone against his father's will. As a result, he is cheated several times. Today is very important day for him. Disobeying his father's last warning he has bought lard in goods market with very cunning man Dr. Tamkin. Though he doesn't know anything about Dr. Tamkin, he has invested his last capital seven hundred dollars. Dr. Adler and Mr. Perls criticized Tommy for investing money. Adler informs Tommy about the cunniness of Dr. Tamkin. He's a cunning man. I wouldn't trust him, though. He's probably a liar.

About 20 years ago, Tommy went Hollywood to be an actor before completing college education. It was his first great mistake) Maurice Venice assured him that he would help him to be an actor. After passing some days Tommy understood that Maurice Venice was cheat. Actually he was a broker of prostitutes. So, Tommy did not make any progress in Hollywood To Margaret was another great mistake. Their conjugal life has broken. They live now separately. Tommy wants to divorce her. But he is unable to be free from trick of law. Margaret takes shelter the trick of law.

For this. Tommy unable to marry his beloved Olive, Margaret lives with her two sons far away from Tommy. Tommy has to pay the all expense of his two sons. His wife Margaret would not give him a divorce And he had to support her and the two children. They exchange their view by telephone mechanically where cordial love is absent. During telephone conversation his wife wants money. She thinks that there is no difference between a street beggar and her husband.

Dr. Adler is self-centered and narrow minded like Margaret. Tommy desires his father's love and affection but he is deprived of love and affection. When Tommy wants help from his father but his father considers him as a patient and gives advice as a doctor. Mentally shocked Tommy gets consolation from Dr. Tam kin. So, he considers Tamkin as a substitute father. The playwright has pre sented several characters in hotel Gloriana who are self-centered and narrow minded. Adler, Tamkin, Mr. Rappaport, Margaret, Rubin, Mr. Perls, manager of broker office all of them are artificial. They are busy only for their own interest. They are worshipper of money.

How they love money, adore money! Holy money! Beautiful money!

Tommy is different from them. He loves the people. He is very kind and soft minded. He has gotten these good qualities from his mother. He cannot tolerate human miseries. That telephone booth is used to making conversation between Tommy and Margaret symbol of emotionless concrete mechanic civilization Hot exchange takes place during their conversation Mr. Rappaport is an uncivilized man. He doesn't realize the courtesy. He is symbol of every Hollow man.

He likes to depend on others only for getting own interest. In spite of his blindness, he can adopt himself with mechanic civilization. Tommy has no sky kissing ambition. He wants to lead very simple life) (Tamkin is fake and cheat. He always presents him as philosopher, psychologist, poet, and medicine pessimist. At Tamkin's hands, Tommy gradually becomes a puppet. When Tommy wants to know about the lard and market then Tamkin advised him to be patient. He consoles Tommy that the present is real, the past and future are farcical.

The past is no good to us The future is full of anxiety Only the present is real-the here-and now. Towards the end of the play, we see that Tommy wants Margaret's help. Once he spent huge money for her education purposes. Now he wants that his wife should take job in order to remove the load of him. He is very worried of his two sons. His wife has made them rebellious against him. 

I'm deprived of my children. I pay and pay
I never see them. They grow up without me

He is now determined to divorce Margaret and marry Olive. Tamkin cheated his last seven hundred dollars. One day Tamkin fled away. Tommy was bro ken hearted. He became helpless. He was crying for losing everything. He was searching the existence of Tamkin with tormented mind. He moved the whole brokerage market. But he could not find out Tamkin. Tommy saw a funeral procession. Some people including Tamkin were going to the funeral pyre with a dead body. Tommy saw Tamkin and shouted. He tried to follow Tamkin but police stopped his movement. Tamkin took this opportunity and disappeared. Tommy could not understand what should he do. He came to the coffin and looked at the dead body.

Tommy's heart-beat increased. He compared himself to the dead body. The hair of dead body was like him. There was sadness over the face to dead body. Tommy thought that the dead man was disappointed in his life like him. Now the dead man is totally free from anxiety. Tommy could not leave the dead body like other people. He stood beside the coffin like statue. He could not control his mind. He started crying loudly. He neared the coffin and paused for his turn, and gazed down Oh father, what do I ask of you?

Special Message For Students

My dear English Department students brothers and sisters Welcome to .Thinking that your suffering will be reduced, I have brought it for you in simple and fluent language. Hope it will be useful for you. Inshallah you will find notes of all subjects from 1st year to 4th year on this page.

Stay tuned to my page for all your necessary notes and suggestions, thanks.

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