By S. Halldorson
Through an in-depth research of the works of Saul Bellow and Don DeLillo, this booklet deals up a brand new thought of the heroic for the days we are living in.
Read or Download The Hero in Contemporary American Fiction: The Works of Saul Bellow and Don DeLillo PDF
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Additional info for The Hero in Contemporary American Fiction: The Works of Saul Bellow and Don DeLillo
Jack Gladney is a pragmatic man with an identity based upon his idea of the reality of his world. In the novel, however, Gladney is stripped of his circles of identity and is forced to confront the very basis of his need for these protective layers. However, Gladney only desires to purchase the product and subsequently forget himself. Indeed, Gladney has arbitrarily chosen various identities (professor, husband, father) that he wears with great aplomb. He should be contented. Unfortunately, he has managed to forget that who he is, in a sense, is arbitrary and chosen along the way, and that such empty images of identity cannot protect him from either the primal layer of narrative identity (where one simply is or is not) or what lies beyond it (chaos).
And I recognized that the breath of warm air was simultaneously a breath of relief at my decision to surrender” (183). In this, Bellow’s hero denies either suicide or madness, but, most significantly, he denies the incomprehensibility of surrender and submission. Notably, Joseph Campbell uses the word “submission” in his own analysis of this question: “The hero is the man of self-achieved submission. But submission to what? That precisely is the riddle that today we have to ask ourselves and that it is everywhere the primary virtue and historic deed of the hero to have solved” (16).
Although Henderson the Rain King is overblown almost to the point of farce, it does not mock the essential nature of the heroic desire. In essence, Bellow’s parody is of the nature and the 40 THE HERO IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN FICTION value of reality. In his essay on “Reality and the Hero,” Daniel Hughes explains that “Lolita and Henderson the Rain King are essentially serious parodies of comic parody itself because the initial value which the parody is meant to question is restored and with this restoration the unique reality of the experience sought reveals itself: we come into love in Lolita and into selfhood in Henderson” (90).