Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day symbolizes the complexity of American culture in the 1950s. During the post World War II era, America is experiencing a rapid economic growth. Also, America is experiencing the beginning stages of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. In Seize the Day, Bellow uses setting, characters and imagery to symbolize the psychological detachment of American’s during the corresponding time period. In Seize the Day, Tommy Wilhelm is portrayed as a middle aged man who is living in New York City. Tommy Wilhelm moves to New York City after being laid off from his sales job and divorced from his wife. In a financial dilemma, Wilhelm decides to invest in the stock market with Dr. Tamkin. Dr. Tamkin proves to be a fraudulent character after he loses all of Wilhelm money and disappears. Despite many failures, Wilhelm makes a final attempt to reach out to his father for assistance. After being denied financial assistance from his father, Tommy has a revitalizing insight regarding the meaning of life during a stranger’s funeral.
New York City is the perfect setting for symbolizing the psychological mindset of America during the 1950s. Bellow describes New York City’s setting as “the great, great crowd, the exhaustible current of millions of every race and kind pouring out, pressing round, of every
age, of every genius…” (111). Bellow describes New York City as a chaotic image to symbolize the lost state of Tommy Wilhelm. According to Gilbert M. Porter, the “setting and time-present form the frame which contains Wilhelm’s reflections on time-past and its effect on his current situation” (107). Through the outlook of Wilhelm, one can picture the detachment he experience...
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...lm with a hippopotamus to suggest another metaphor. Wilhelm is indirectly compared to the semi aquatic mammal to emphasize Porter’s “drowning man” (105). The symbol of water continues to dominate the imagery in Seize the Day throughout different levels of consciousness.
Bellow’s Seize the Day is a work of fiction that represents the perspective of the modern American during the corresponding time period. Like Hemingway’s “Lost Generation”, World War II left the American people feeling a sense of disconnection with humanity. Through the protagonist of Tommy Wilhelm, one can see the failure’s correlated with society. Also, through the character of Wilhelm, one can see the misconception of fate. Wilhelm realizes that correcting external problems requires a direct internal fixation. Through the tears of the protagonist, Bellow provides the reader with hope.
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