Hope and Saul Bellow

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Hope and Saul Bellow

People grow up to respect their elders, their society, and their lifestyle. We learn from the people around us and our own experience. Saul Bellow presents his moral code and the standards that he believes people should follow. His characters experience loneliness and alienation from society. They place blame on the people around them, society, and religion. Each character believes in something; hope is everything to them. They think they can promote change and achieve a moral standard. Bellow believes in the human spirit. His characters show that no matter what we are presented with, or what hand fate deals us, we can conquer.

Bellow acknowledges the primitive tendencies latent in human beings. Scratch the surface of human civilization, and you will find the beast lying just below. As Frank D. McConnell states "the shuddering recognition of how little distant we actually are from the savagery of our origins, how fragile a thing is the civilization which makes, we continue to tell ourselves, our life worth living". Bellow's protagonists sense this dark side of the human spirit lurking within society. They struggle to find decency and meaning in the chaos of the world.

In Bellow's novel The Victim, the main character, Asa Leventhal, a resident of Chicago, struggles with his identity in a subtle way. Instead of philosophizing about who he is and what he is doing, he creates conflict with people and society. Allbee lost his job and had a drinking problem, Levanthal could have helped get him a new job or given him assistance. He is insecure about what he is doing, because despite his wish to ignore and turn away his old friend Kirby Allbee, he also feels compelled to help him. Allbee places all the blame on Levanthal for losing his job. If Levanthal had talked to him and told him it was also due to his drinking problem and relationship difficulties, he would not be blamed for costing Allbee his job. Instead, he takes responsibility he is unwilling to confront Allbee, wanting none of Allbee's problems to invade his life. As Derek Rubin writes in his analysis of Levanthal's faults "Levanthal's being caught between his desire to turn Allbee away and his inability to ignore Allbee's demand for help is related to his insecurity as a marginal man"(1). Kirby tries to reason with Leventhal, but is turned away " 'Watch your talk,' said Leventhal stiffly.
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