The quest for authenticity by Saul Bellow's heroes



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This thesis examines the heroes in four novels by Saul Bellow: Joseph, in Dangling Man; Asa, in The Victim; Henderson, in Henderson the Rain King; and Herzog, in the novel by that name. Though the circumstances in each novel vary somewhat, the conflict for each hero is the same. This paper establishes, from the novels themselves, these two as the forces in conflict: first, the demands for self-denial made upon the heroes by their Judeo-Christian world; and second, their fear of losing their own personal identity. It further establishes that by refusing the demands made upon them for fear of losing their personal identity, they alienate themselves from this world. Finally, it examines their discovery of the quest for reconciliation as being a quest for authenticity. This quest leads three of the four to an understanding of the need for a balance between the demands for self-denial, on the one hand, and the desire for personal identity, on the other. They begin to understand that the balance is achieved by what Erich Fromm calls mature love. Fromm's theory of love is explicated fully in chapter one. [...]