The ending of Seize the Day is ironic and revealing about the theme of the entire novella. When Tommy Wilhelm inadvertently attends a funeral for a stranger, he begins to sob uncontrollably at the sight of the unknown corpse. It is a painful reminder of his own mortality and a cathartic release of emotion he has been building up over the downward spiraling course of his life. However, it is ironic because Tommy is the only one at the funeral who is expressing such emotion and it makes others in attendance believe he must have been very close to the deceased to be so devastated. In other words, no one is crying for the dead man, not even Tommy, but Tommy is crying for himself. This is not only irony but serves to underscore the entire theme of the novel-laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone. Instead of seizing the day and living in the here-and-now, Tommy is torn by anxiety over the future and regret over the past. Because of this, he believes he is in need of some kind of favor, or break, or sympathy. However, he comes to realize that, like the tears we often shed for ourselves, pity is often a personal exercise of self and seldom forthcoming from others. He recognizes this because he learns that from the perspective of others, he is the only one to blame for his repeated mistakes and his repeated failures. As he muses at one point when in need of sympathy, "And why, Wilhelm further asked, should he or anybody else pity me; or why should I be pitied sooner than another fellow? It is my childish mind that thinks people are ready to give it just because you need it" (Bellow 93). Tommy considers himself a failure because he has taken to heart...
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...isis helps him to accept the discomforts that come with being free and fully alive, and, as the novella ends, we can only hope from that moment on Tommy will begin to seize the day each day in the present as he strives to make something of himself in the here-and-now for the future, his own and others.
Bellow, S. Seize The Day. (9th printing). New York, The Viking Press, 1968.
Christy, M. Bellow's pleasure in imaginary states. Boston Globe Online. http://www.boston.com/globe/search/stories/nobel/1989/1989e.html, Nov. 15, 1989: 1-4.
Stein, H. T. and Edwards, M. E. Classical Adlerian theory and practice. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/hstein/theoprac.htm, Aug. 21, 1998: 1-19.
Stevenson, D. B. Freud's division of the mind. http://landow.stg.brown.edu/HTatBrown/freud/Division_of_Mind.html, Oct. 4, 1999: 1-2.
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