FRANKL IN FICTION: LOGOTHERAPY IN
SELECTED WORKS OF SAUL BELLOW
To the Faculty of
California State University Dominguez Hills
In Pa1tial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
Fall 2016 Copyright by
All Rights Reserved In loving memory of my mother, Diana, without whom this work would not have been
I want to acknowledge my mentor and thesis committee chair, Patricia Cherin, for her constant encouragement and insightful advice . I want to thank Reality Thornewood whose research assistance made this work possible. I want to aclmowledge Cory Dauer and Sharon Dias for adjusting my work schedule to allow me to pursue my studies. I also want to thank Emiliano Lopez , M. Medonis and B. Cruz for their technical assistance.
Finally, I want to thank my family for their understanding and patience throughout this process.
l V TABLE OF CONTENTS
COPYRIGHT·PAGE ...... ii
DEDICATION ...... iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...... iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS ...... v
ABSTRACT ...... :...... vi
1. INTRODUCTION ...... :.,...... 1
2. LITERATURE REVIEW ...... :...... 6
Saul Bellow ...... 6 The Adventures of Augie March ...... :...... 8 f:, Herzog ...... :·...... 10 Mr. Sammler 's Planet ...... 11 Logotherapy ...... 13
3. METHODOLOGY :...... 22
4. THE STUDY ...... 26
Augie ...... :...... 26 Herzog ...... 33 Sammler ...... 41
5. CONCLUSION ...... 49
WORKS CITED ...... 56
This thesis examines how the title characters of Saul Bellow's The Adventures of
Augie March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler 's Planet -make meaning of their life experiences .
The study employs Viktor Frankl's logotherapy, a theoretical fusion of certain aspects of existential philosophy and psychotherapy that foregrounds meaning as a primary motivation in human beings. Frankl proposes three criteria for deriving meaning from human existence: " 1) by creating a work or doing a deed; 2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and 3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering"
(Man's Search 115). In essence, Frankl maintains that meaning can be found by being of service to others, in love, and in tr~scending the inherent suffering associat ed with human existence without succumbing to despair. This study examines the degree to which Augie March, Moses Herzog, and Artur Sammler accomplish these tasks , and seeks to glean humanistic lessons from the trio's experiences . CHAPTER 1
In the preface to the third edition of Viktor Frankl' s Man's Search for Meaning,
Frankl observes that "if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their finger nails" (11). Albert Camus went still further, asserting that there is
"but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living" (Neiman 294). If, as Camus suggests, abstaining from suicide is a vote for existence, then the question becomes, what is it that makes life wo1th living?
Frankl believes that human beings are primarily motivated by the "will to meaning," an overarching imperative to find meaning in life regardless of situation or circumstance
(Man's Search105). This thesis goes far to explain why the majority of human beings endure the inevitable disappointments associated with human existence without succumbing to despair or suicide. How they do so is the question this study will address, and it will turn to the literature of Saul Bellow for answers .
How we make meaning in our lives informs nearly every decision we make. Long before Socrates proclaimed that the "unexamined life is not worth living," human beings have sought to answer this question (Burr 24). Today, as then , there are no universally satisfying answers except perhaps to say that one of the primary concerns of human beings is to find answers of one's own. Some look to religion for answers, others to science, and still others turn to the atts for aid in answering. There are no pat formulae for 2 making meaning in life; however, the literary canon provides a particularly deep well from which to fathom human existence.
The case for deriving meaning from literature is well established. Richard Hughes has written that "literature is the most satisfying revelation of the human experience"
(viii). Saul Bellow appears to agree, saying of writers that the "intelligent public is
wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them , and endures disappointment after
disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology , philosophy,
social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science" (Atlas 462). This study will
expand the scholarly findings on human meaning making by examining how three of
Saul Bellow's characters make meaning of their experiences; more specifically, how they
manage to endure life's trials by employing the logotherapeutic practices described by
Bellow is one of the most influential American writers to emerge in the second half
of the twentieth century. He is also one of the most decorated writers in American
history, having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, three National Book
Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal
for the Novel to name but a few (Leader 3). Harold Bloom states that by "general critical
agreement, Saul Bellow is the strongest American novelist of his generation," and he
goes on to observe that his "achievement does not appear to reside in any single book"
(1). Indeed, one can only achieve a full appreciation of Bellow's genius if one traverses a
number of his books. It is not so much Bellow's wide acclaim that suits his work to this 3 study, though the welter of secondary writings his works have inspired is ce1iainly an asset, but rather it is the subject matter of his writing that lends it to this analysis.
Bellow was interested in making meaning of his own life, in particular his suffering, and this is reflected in his writing. Jonathan Wilson observes that "in his novels Saul
Bellow has performed the remarkable feat of making an extraordinarily complicated mind accessible to a wide range of readers without compromising his thoughts through
oversimplification" (Ideas 3). It is this aspect of Bellow's writing that suits it to this
study. Making meaning is an incredibly individualized and dynamic process. Bellow's
gift lies in his ability to capture the nuances of this process through characterization .
Bellow possessed the uncanny ability to lay bare his characters' psyches , thus informing
their moti vations. While much has been written about specific psychological , cultural,
and linguistic aspects of Bellow's work, more can be done to draw these disparate strands
together into a distinctly humanistic meaning.
This study will examine three of Bellow's best known characters: Augie March,
Moses Herzog , and Artur Sammler, (Augie, Herzog, and Sammler hereafter). These three
characters encompass a large portion of the human life span, ranging from the childhood
and early adulthood of Augie, the mid-life crises of Herzog , and the late-life conflicts of
Sammler. Together these three represent a fairly broad cross section of human
experience , one made even richer by its relation to Bellow's own experiences.
Even the most accessible well requires a tool to help draw water. This study will
employ Viktor Frankl's logo-theory, or what Franld describes as "logotherapy's theory of
meaning" (Unheard Cry 37). Logotherapy speaks to the question: What is the meaning of 4
life? Frankl contends that "instincts are transmitted through genes, and values are
transmitted though traditions, but ... meanings, being unique, are a matter of personal
discovery" (38). This assertion underscores the value of literature, for if meaning is a
matter of personal discovery and if literature is the most satisfying revelation of the human experience, then literature should provide a useful platform from which to discern
how human beings make meaning of their existence. Still, the task can be daunting when
one considers all that literature can encompass.
Logotherapy provides help by proposing three criteria for deriving meaning from
1. by creating a work or by doing a deed;
2. by experiencing something or encountering someone; and
3. by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering. (Man's Search
Frankl proposes that human beings are primarily motivated by the "will to meaning," and
these criteria help describe how this is accomplished. Though Frankl's criteria have been
applied to individual Bellow characters in the past to answer specific questions , this study
will broaden the scope to reveal in fuller measure both how Bellow 's characters make
meaning and how Frankl 's theory operates across many of his works.
This study seeks to inform the significance of meaning in human existence by
examining the role meaning making plays with three Bellow characters . Frankl states that
people who lack meaning often experience what he terms a nodgenie neurosis (Man's
Search 106). Nodgenie neuroses "do not emerge from conflicts between drives and 5
instincts but rather from existential problems" (106). Prominent among these is the
frustration of the will to meaning. This study will seek to determine if any of the Bellow
characters under study experience noogenic neuroses and if so, how they resolve them.
The study will be organized into five chapters. The first chapter will serve as an
introduction to the study. The second chapter will serve as the literature review,
introducing Saul Bellow and the three primary works under study: The Adventures of
Augie March , Herzog, and Mr. Sammler 's Planet (subsequent references to these works
will be abbreviated AM, H, and MSP respectively). Frankl's logotherapy will also be
reviewed. The third chapter will outline the methodology employed in the study. The
fourth chapter will discuss the results of the study. More specificall y, the discussion will
answer the following: Do Augie, Herzog, and Sammler exhibit any signs and symptoms
of nod genie neuroses? Does a "will to meaning " appear to influence the attitudes and
behaviors of the -trio? And finally , how do these characters change over the course of
these novels and what role, if any, does logotherapy play? The fifth chapter will
summari ze the study, draw conclusions, and make recommendations for future research . 6
Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Canada in the summer of 1915 (Atlas 8). The
Bellow family fled from Russia in 1913 after Saul's father, Abraham, was convicted of
living beyond the Pale of Settlement for Russian Jews and nearly depo1ted to Siberia (6).
In 1923 the family again relocated, this time to Chicago (17). It was here that Bellow
would spend the remainder of his youth and it is in Chicago where many of his novels are
set. One experience from Bellow's early years in Canada stands out as having an
enduring impact in his life. When Bellow was eight he nearly died from complications
arising from an emergency appendectomy (15). Bellow described the six months he spent
recovering in the hospital as "his crucible, the primary life experience that defined him"
(17). One Bellow biographer observes that this experience made Bellow "clear-eyed
about the precariousness of the human condition" (17). This awareness permeates
Bellow 's writing.
Bellow also gained an affinity for reading while hospitalized, consuming a great
number of books while convalescing (Leader 74). He retained the habit after coming to
America, becoming a regular at the Chicago Public Library (97). Chief among Bellow's
early borrowings were numerous self-improvement and self-development books, a
legacy, notes another biographer , "of his lengthy stay in the hospital and consequent 7 determination not 'to remain weak and coddled"' (97). This determination to be independent and self-reliant is also reflected in Bellow's writing.
Bellow 's voracious appetite for books seems to have served another purpose as well.
The steady diet of American novels helped Bellow expand his world view beyond the shtetl, and by the time he entered middle school Bellow "was an American entirely"
(Leader 100). The transformation Bellow experienced was not merely a matter of assimilation, but rather an indoctrination into the "family of man" marked by a
"universalist dimension" (100). This early indoctrination helps account for the human themes running through many of Bellow's works and it also helps explain Bellow 's steadfast resistance to categorization.
This is not to say that Bellow abandoned his ancestral culture. Jonathan Wilson observes that "Bellow is fully American in his experience and European in some of his literary attachments, but he is also a Jewish writer ... [and] there can be no doubt
Bellow's Jewishness and the Jewish experience in [the twentieth] century inform much of his work" (Ideas 4). Indeed, the majority of Bellow's protagonists including each of the characters under study in this thesis are Jewish. Many of Bellow 's novels contain allusions to the Holocaust and one protagonist, Sammler, is a Holocaust survivor; however, perhaps because of his synoptic vision, Bellow treats his subjects more from a human perspective than from a Jewish one.
Bellow's works are autobiographical in the sense that he often enlists his own experience in service of his ai1. James Atlas observes that Bellow's heroes "aren't renderings of Bellow the man; they 're idealized versions of himself ' (189). Augie March, 8 for example, is based on a composite of Charlie and Morris August, childhood neighbors of Bellow's; however, Atlas goes on to observe that as the novel progresses "the [March] family sounds more and more like Bellow's own" (190). Herzog , Bellow's most critically acclaimed novel, was inspired by an affair between Bellow's second wife, Sasha, and his close friend Jack Ludwig. Mr. Sammler 's Planet incorporates a scene based on an episode out of Bellow's own life where he was heckled while speaking at San Francisco
State University in 1968 (Gordon 153). For Bellow, "the fact is a wire through which one sends a current. The voltage of that current is determined by the writer's own belief as to what matters ... by passionate choice" (Leader 11). Bellow's writing reflects a keen appreciation for the subjectivity of human experience. What he appears to be acknowledging with his wire metaphor is the transcendent value of artistic commitment, that quality of art that comes closest to encompassing the human condition .
The Adventures of Augie March
The Adventures of Augie March exemplifies some of the challenges involved in making such a commitment, artistic or otherwise. Joseph McCadden describes Augie as a picaresque hero, an "observer of the human condition who feels equally at home in a pool room, a country club, a coal office, or a sporting goods store" (65). Mccadden goes on to observe, however, that by the mid-point of the novel Augie outgrows the picaresque form and the novel shifts into Bildungsroman as Augie struggles "to maintain his integrity in a cynical world and to achieve a loving relationship with a woman" (65). The challenge for
Augie, which he merely observes or avoids in the picaresque potion of the novel and that 9
he begins to come to terms with in the Bildungsroman portion, are all the external
influences in his life that threaten to determine his existence.
The thought of being determined by others, of lacking free will, is the primary
source of suffering in Augie's life. In his youth, Augie makes the mistake of assuming
that the authority figures in his life are trying to rob him of his autonomy, and in the case
of his Grandma Lausch, he may even be right. Unfortunately for Augie, he conflates
Grandma Lausch with all authority and winds up being determined by his obstinate
resistance to authority. Crime is one of the more obvious manifestations of Augie ' s
revolt. Augie embezzles from one of his first employers, Deever's Department Store,
where, ironically, he works as one of Santa's little helpers (The Adventures of Augie
March [AM] 47). As an adolescent Augie becomes involved in a robbery , leaving his
father figure William Einhorn baffled until he realizes Augie cannot help but act on his
impulsive "opposition" (126). Einhorn warns Augie against falling into the "the first trap
life digs for him" and becoming "no-purposed away" (126). As a young adult Augie
continues to engage in petty larceny, pilfering text books to sell to college students (209).
Augie intuits a key that helps him avoid becoming "no-purposed away"; however,
and it turns out it was in his possession all along. Augie describes having a sense of what he calls "the axial lines oflife ... truth, love, peace, bounty, usefulness, harmony " (AM
494) . Augie's axial lines find a parallel in Frank.l' s meaning making criteria. When
examined through a logotherapeutic lens one begins to appreciate how Augie employs
Frankl's criteria to make meaning of his own experiences and how he comes to exert 10
genuine free will in a world that Saul Bellow contends, "asks an undue degree of control
over us" (Leader 434).
Herzog has generated more interest than any other Bellow novel, inspiring nearly
one hundred scholarly articles and almost fifty book reviews in the first twenty years after
its initial publication. 1 Herzog is also one of Bellow's most commercially successful
novels, remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year (Begley 2). This
level of interest is noteworthy considering the novel ' s lack of a conventional plot. The bulk of the novel's movement takes place in the mind of Moses Herzog, the novel 's protagonist. Most of this movement involves Herzog coming to terms with various
disappointments, the love affair between his wife Madeleine and his good friend
Valentine Gersbach prominent among them. Essentially, Herzog provides a study in
suffering which helps explain its broad appeal. Like Man's Search for Meaning, Herzog
speaks directly to one of the perennial questions facing humanity: Is there any meaning in
Herzog is also Bellow's most autobiographical book. Zachary Leader has identified
corollaries in Bellow 's life for every major character and most of the peripheral players in
Herzog. Michael Kotkin, a student of Bellow 's at the University of Chicago, reports
Bellow as having said "the novel of the twentieth century [has become] more personal
the writer trying to solve in his book the problems he is trying to solve in his life" (Leader
1 Gloria Cronin' s annotated bibliography lists ninety-eight journal attic Ies and forty-one book review s on Herzog as of 1986. 11
661). Though Bellow was speaking of D. H. Lawrence, this idea appears to hold ttue for
Herzog as well. The primary source of suffering for Herzog, and perhaps for Bellow as well, is not so much the pain of betrayal or personal insult, but rather in the s01t of metaphysical evil represented in the child abuse case Herzog witnesses in the courtroom scene. Though Bellow's personal pain may have inspired him to write Herzog , the novel concerns itself with the bigger question of how humanity can affirm life despite the existence of evil.
Like Augie, Herzog is repelled by deterministic doctrines that attempt to reduce humanity to the sum total of temperament and training. Unlike Augie, however, Herzog is less action oriented and more intellectual. As Jonathan Wilson states, "Herzog is a novel of ideas, a novel about people who have ideas, and a novel that seeks to debunk pervasive purveyors of ideas and explanations " (Ideas 38). Wilson goes on to observe that "Herzog's ultimate goal seems to be the achievement of a kind of transcendental peace" (41). Unfortunately, for much of the novel Herzog cannot trnst his own thinking, for he recognizes that his thoughts are "not the product of clear intellectual rigor but an ideational spillage from his emotional problems" (41). Fortunately, as Lauren Cardon observes , "Herzog develops his own means of recovery" (85).
Mr. Sammler 's Planet
Mr. Sammler 's Planet represents a depaiture from The Adventures of Augie March and Herzog. In one regard, Sammler is more cynical than either Augie or Herzog. As
Andrew Gordon points out, "Mr. Sammler 's Plane t purveys many of the same themes as 12 other Bellow novels ... But there is a contradiction between the overt message of the novel, its defense of humanistic values, and the cove1t, emotional message, which is almost unremitting disgust and contempt" (156). While there may be much about the modern world that elicits Sammler's disgust, including the erosion of traditional values and the unapologetic greed embodied by the black pickpocket and the heckler at
Columbia, the dominant emotion displayed by Sammler is not so much contempt as resignation.
This distinction is imp01tant for it helps shed light on the psychic movement
Sammler undergoes. This is another point of departure between Mr. Sammler 's Planet and the previous works. Mr. Sammler's movement is more subtle, more attitudinal. Like
Herzog, Sammler doubts his own sanity: "Man is a Killer. Man has a moral nature. The anomaly can only be resolved by insanity . . ." (Mister Sammler 's Planet [MSP] 162). As
Daniel Fuchs observes, "Sammler is the only character in Bellow to take a life" (87). This is the crux of Sammler's suffering; he is aware of humanity's animalistic potential, and averse to it. Sammler' s regret for having taken the life of a German soldier during the war is paiticularly telling given that he was left for dead in a mass grave by German soldiers.
Sammler is a moralist, first and foremost.
One thing that does not waiver is Sammler's behavior. He acts morally throughout the novel. His suffering does not derive from self-doubt so much as humanistic doubt. He observes societal decay, or at least what he perceives of as decay, and he begins to doubt society's capacity to check humanity's baser impulses. By the end of the novel there are signs that his faith is renewed. Sammler moves from a position of alienation to one of 13 identification by novel's end and the question becomes what role logotherapy plays in his movement.
Logothei:apy, or therapy through meaning, is often referred to as the "Third School of Viennese Psychoanalysis" (Corey 137). Though Frankl diverges from the first two schools in some regards, he builds on them in others therefore any discussion about logotherapy should begin with at least a rudimentary understanding of these first two schools of psychoanalysis.
Sigmund Freud is of course the author and architect of the first school of psychoanalysis or what is sometimes referred to as classical psychoanalysis (Tyson 12).
The unconscious figures prominently in classical psychoanalysis and is perhaps one of
Freud's most enduring contributions to psychology. Freud conceived of the unconscious as the "storehouse of those painful experiences and emotions, those wounds, fears, guilty desires, and unresolved conflicts we do not want to know about because we might feel overwhelmed by them" (12). This unconscious storehouse starts to be stocked in infancy when our desires are thwarted by our parents or caregivers.
Freud coined the word id to describe the psychic seat of all our instinctual urges and desires. Freud believes the id is guided by the pleasure principle, "which is aimed at reducing tension, avoiding pain, and gaining pleasure " (Corey 65). The id is unthinking and largely unconscious therefore an infant will continue to nurse until the discomfmt of a bloated belly outweighs the pleasure of satiating its appetite or until the breast or bottle 14 is withdrawn. When an external agent thwarts the infant's will, conflicts ensue, conflicts that, if left unresolved, can impact an individual throughout his or her life.
Ego is the word Freud used to describe human intellect. The ego is characterized by reason, it does all of our "realistic and logical thinking and formulates plans of action for satisfying our needs" (Corey 65). More than that, the ego serves as a governor of our instincts , it "checks and controls the blind impulses of the id" (65). Freud conceived of a third component to the human personality, the superego, as a sort of moral arbiter that
"represents the traditional values and ideals of society as they are handed down from parents to children" (65). The superego mediates between self-will and societal expectations. This then is a rudimentary sketch of the framework Freud developed to account for human behavior. The ego and the superego are the conscious components of the human psyche while the id represents the unconscious.
The unconscious is oceanic, huge in relation to our consciousness. The unconscious
"stores all experiences, memories, and repressed material" (Corey 65) . Repression is the process by which "painful or threatening thoughts and feelings are excluded from awareness" (67). When thought of in this fashion the depth o(the unconscious becomes apparent. One need only consider all one's waking experiences, every moment of every day in one's life and every incident of thwarted will, and then pause to reflect on how little of that material is available to recall. This repressed material fuels anxiety, the
"feeling of dread that results [when] repressed feelings, memories, desires, and experienc e[s] ... emerge to the surface of awareness" (66). For Freud, the unconscious is 15 a deep well that fuels anxiety and drives our defense mechanisms, which in turn determine our behavior. Determinism represents a key point of departure for Frankl.
Freudian psychoanalysis is fundamentally deterministic. Freud's framework details how our biological impulses (id) and our inherent ability to reason (ego) interact with environmental influences (superego) to determine our behavior. This is Frankl's primary critique of classical psychoanalysis. Frankl contends that "man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them .... Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment" (Man's Search 133).
Alfred Adler's Individual Psychology is considered the second schoo l of Viennese psychoana lysis. Adler collaborated with Freud for a number of years during the initial development of the psychodynamic approach to therapy (Corey 102). Eventually, however, Adler parted ways with Freud and developed a more holistic approach to psychoanalysis. Adler's first point of divergence can be seen in his emphasis on feelings of inferiority. Where Freudians might read penis envy or castration anxiety, Adler simply saw a natural inclination of those in an inferior social position to rise to a more positive position. He believes that "inferiority feelings" are a natural component of the personality and they "motivate us to strive for mastery, success (superiority), and completion" (104).
Adler believes human beings are "primari ly motivated by a desire to belong " (107). Adler placed a much greater emphasis on social factors than did Freud.
Adler does not maintain , however, that this striving for superiority "necessarily mean[ s] superiority over others" (Corey 106). Adler approaches the individual from a 16 phenomenological perspective, stressing "the whole person in the context of his or her life-how all dimensions of a person are interconnected components, and how all of these components are unified by the individual's movement toward a life goal" (105). In many ways Adler anticipated Frankl.
Frankl was influenced by Freud early in life and later came to be a student of
Adler's. Later in his career, however , Frankl was drawn to the writings of several existential philosophers, Nietzsche prominent among them, and he "began developing his own existential philosophy and psychotherapy" (Corey 143).
Frankl began formulating logotherapy prior to the outbreak of World War II; however, his thoughts were not fully crystalized until his imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camps during the war. In Man's Search for Meaning Frankl details his arrival at Auschwitz where, after being stripped of all his personal prope1ty and being shorn of all his body hair, he and his fellow prisoners were unceremoniously herded into the showers. In this moment, Frankl states, "we knew that we had nothing to lose except our so ridiculously naked lives" (29). Thus, relieved of all the accoutrements of ego,
Frankl assumed an unobstructed vantage of the hum an condit ion .
This then was the test bed for Frank l' s theory . To be sure, Frankl observed many individua ls whose actions appeared to be determined by either the "w ill to pleasure" or the "will to power." There were those prisoners (Capo s) who actively collaborated with their captors in retu rn for preferential treatment. These Capos, Frankl notes, often "fared better in the camps than they had in their entire lives" (Man 's Search 18). These men were specially selected by the SS and "on ly the most brutal ... prisoners were chosen," 17 indicating, perhaps, a temperamental predisposition for such behavior (19). In addition,
Frankl describes a selection process among the prisoners that insured only those prisoners
"prepared to use any means, honest and otherwise," were likely to survive for any length of time (19).
The concentration camp provided an environment that encouraged a mercenary mentality. The camps rewarded cunning and ruthlessness and punished kindness and compassion. It was a world without the Leviathan, a world that pitted every man against every other, or should have if one were to believe Hobbes. But this was not exclusively the case. There were some notable exceptions to what Hobbes, Freud, or even Adler might predict and it is to these exceptions that Frank l turned his attention.
These exceptions or anomalous responses to camp conditions, such as they were, were not confined to any paiticular group or profile. In the camps Frankl encountered cruel guards and compassionate ones. He endured sadistic acts perpetrated by the Capos but he also enjoyed occasional acts of kindness as well. Among the prisoners there was a mixture of mercenary survivalism and apathetic despair, but there were also rare examples of sublime selflessness. The ability to rise above horrendous circumstances and behave nobly cut across all demographics in an unpredictable manner. From this Frankl concludes that the "mere knowledge that a man was either a camp guard or a prisoner tells us almost nothing" (Man's Search 93). What it can tell us, Frankl continues, is that there are essentially only two kinds of human beings, "the 'race' of the decent man and the 'race' of the indecent man" (94). Furthermore, Frankl contends that the freedom to migrate from one camp to another resides within us all. 18
Free will is a cornerstone of logotherapy and it underscores Frankl ' s unique fusion
of philosophy and psychotherapy. As Jeannette Lowen observes, "one of the major goals
of Frankl 's thought is to highlight the relationship between psychotherapy and
philosophy" (56). He does this by confronting the notion that human behavior is solely
the result of biological , psychological , and social conditions. Such a philosophy, Frankl
warns, reduces human beings to "victims of outer influences or inner circumstances . Such
a fatalism ... denies that a human being is free" (56).
Frankl acknowledge s that the problem of free will, like the mind/body problem, is
essentially unsolvable (Unheard C,y 44). Instead of joining in the metaphysical debates
Frankl attempts to reconcile both possibilities. He builds on Heidegger's contention that
"being human is 'be ing in the world"' (46). He emphasizes that human beings are not
closed systems but rather influence , and are influenced by, heredity, environment , and
social milieu. He believes that when we cease focusing on the self, and instead operate
unselfconsciously as a compliment or component of a larger context then we acquire
"freedom in spite of determinism" ( 47). In essence, Franld has chronicled a framework for achieving "self-transcendence" through defocusing on oneself and instead focusing on a higher meaning to fulfill, hence his term , "height psychology" (29).
Frankl describ es the alternative as an "ex istential vacuwn," a sense that life has no meaning (Unheard Cry 23). Frankl notes that modern industrialized society "gratifies and
satisfies virtually every need- except for one, the need for meaning" (24). He asse1ts that since humanity's "struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival
for what?" (21 ). On a grand scale the existential vacuwn embodies the nihilism predicted 19 when Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God. In fact, Frankl points to the "crumbling of traditions" as a "major factor accounting for the existential vacuum" (26). More importantly, Frankl describes the symptomatology associated with the existential vacuum, what he calls "the mass neurotic triad ... depression, aggression, and addiction"
This symptomology is important because we can trace its manifestations in literature. Depression , for example , frequently results in despondency or suicidal ideation. Aggression may manifest as violent impulse or behavior, or perhaps be sublimated by some other tension inducing activity. In The Unheard C,y for Meaning
Frankl devotes an entire chapter, "Sports-The Asceticism of Today," to this topic.
Finally, addiction can result from an existential vacuum. Frankl cites several studies indicating a conelation between heavy drug use and a sense of meaninglessness (27). It is worth noting that addictive behavior is not restricted to chemical dependency. Gabor
Mate defines addiction as "any repeated behavior, substance abuse related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life and the lives of others" (224). This definition illustrates the scope of addictive behavior.
If the existential vacuum is the ailment, and noogenic neuroses are the symptoms, then logotherapy is Frankl's prescription. Logotherapy, Frankl writes, "regards its assignment as that of assisting the patient find meaning in his life" (Man's Search 108).
As previously noted, this is accomplished in three ways: creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward 20 unavoidable suffering. While the first criterion is relatively straightforward, the others require some elaboration.
Frankl's second criterion involves finding meaning by experiencing some transcendent principle or quality such as goodness or beauty in nature or culture or by
"experiencing another human being in his very uniqueness-by loving him" (Man 's
Search 115). The type of experience Frankl describes rises above mere attendance and verges on communion. He states that love, in logotherapy, "is not interpreted as a mere epiphenomenon of sexual drives and instincts," love is a primary phenomenon (116). To demonstrate, Frankl recounts his experience in the camp when he recalled the image of his wife. In Auschwitz, on the verge of starvation and not knowing if his wife was alive or dead, Frankl was transfixed by this thought:
Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire . . . I
grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that poetry and human thought
and belief have to impaii: The salvation of man is through love and in
love . ... For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning
of the word, "The angles are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite
In that moment, Frankl says, it did not matter to him is his wife were alive or dead because their love had the power to transcend death.
Frankl ' s third criterion, like his position on free will, involves an outlook or worldview. He describes his final criterion (the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering) as "the last of human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of 21 circumstances " (Man's Search 75). What Frankl describes is a s01t of inner triumph over outer circumstance. In the camps Frankl recognized a few exceptional individuals who did not succumb to despair or suicide or descend into animalistic survivalism. These few individuals somehow managed to transcend their honific circumstances and behave in a dignified and moral manner. They displayed kindness, compassion, and nobility. They faced death with dignity born of the assurance that their existence, even their death, was not in vain.
The camp served as a microcosm. Life's challenges remain the same for all humanity. We are, as Heidegger says, "thrown into" a world without inherent meaning.
We develop affinities for certain experiences that we must eventually relinquish. Life involves transience which entails a degree of suffering in and of itself. In essence, Frankl contends that we may respond to life's suffering in one of two ways. First, one may deny reality and adopt an attitude of resentment, resignation, or futility. These attitudes often lead to suicide or revolt. Revolt often manifests as self-serving amoral action. Sadly,
Frankl observes, these were the attitudes adopted by the majority in the camps (Man's
Search 154). The alternative involves peaceful acceptance of human existence, such as it is. It involves the responsibility to take moral action in any given circumstance or, when all action is foreclosed, to strive for inner triumph in the face of suffering. It involves affirming life and meeting unavoidable suffering with dignity and poise. 22
In his 1957 Nobel Prize address Albert Camus remarked:
Probably every generation sees itself as charged with remaking the world.
Mine, however, knows that it will not remake the world. But perhaps its
task is even greater, for it consists in keeping the world from destroying
itself. ( qtd. in Sprintzen viii)
Frankl echoes these sentiments in the closing sentences of Man's Search for Meaning:
"Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. Since Hiroshima we know what is at stake" (154). Now in the opening decades of the twenty-first century the stakes remain unchanged. Humankind is a species with an insatiable appetite for meaning and purpose.
We live in a world without apparent cosmic significance and in which we are all condemned to death. These stark realities can produce a void that, if left unfilled , could have apocalyptic consequences. The twenty-first century overture on 9/11 reminds us all of the destructive potential of ideas and underscores our urgent need for a positive meaning and a fulfilling purpose in life .
This brings us full circle, back to Frankl's proposition that "meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by [the individual] alone" (Man 's Search l 05).
The paradox is, though we make the pilgrimage from the cradle to the grave alone, whatever path we chose can have a profound impact on other sojourners as well. In this way we are inextricably bound to one another. Literature reflects this reality and, if 23 approached judiciously, it can help inform our individual journeys in a meaningful way.
This is particularly true of the characters under study in this thesis. They emerge from humble origins to which many of us may relate. The challenges they face are the quotidian challenges that vex us all. Augie, Herzog, and Sammler represent thoughtful individuals who question the status quo and who seek, to greater or lesser degrees, to overcome the influence of ideology and to find positive meaning in their lives.
This study will conduct a non-quantitative analysis of Augie, Herzog, and Sammler, examining how the trio makes meaning in their lives. This will be accomplished by applying Frankl's logotherapeutic criteria to the characters under study. More specifically, each character will be examined to determine if they demonstrate any of the signs and symptoms of noogenic neuroses. It is important to note, however, that noogenic symptomatology may mimic somatic or sociogenic psychopathology. As Frankl observes, "the bulk of the symptomology is psychogenic" (Unheard Cry 23). Put simply,
Frankl allows that individuals might be socially conditioned to, say, act out violently, or they might have a biological predilection toward violence, or violent behavior may be the result of existential frustration. More likely, any given behavior arises from a combination of factors. Frankl maintains that biological predilection, social conditioning , and the uniquely human factors associated with the need for meaning are enmeshed and must be treated holistically ; therefore the presence of signs and symptoms of noogenic neuroses can do no more than suggest the presence of an existential vacuum (23).
The next question this study will address itself to is whether or not a "will to meaning " influences the attitudes and behaviors of Augie, Herzog, and Sammler. Frankl 24 cites the findings of Kratockvil and Planova who produced evidence that "the will to meaning is really a specific need not reducible to other needs, and is in greater or smaller degree present in all human beings" (Unheard Cry 31 ). Unlike Maslow's hierarchy, which entails a progression from subsistence needs on up the scale to self-actualization ,
Frankl maintains that the will to meaning pervades every phase of life. He concedes that
"food is certainly a necessary condition for survival"; however he goes on to note that "it is not sufficient to endow one's life with meaning" (33). In fact, Frankl maintains that
"when lower needs are not satisfied, a higher need, such as the will to meaning, may become most urgent" (33).
Frankl describes the will to meaning as a self-transcendent orientation "toward a task, or a person ... or a meaning to be fulfilled" (Unheard Cry 34). The will to meaning may be evidenced in both thought and behavior. Behaviorally, one might expect a future orientation that entails a degree of insight and planning. Fmihermore, it entails thoughtful moral responses to life's challenges as opposed to impulsive reactions. In addition, the will to meaning entails self-transcendence. It involves a degree of optimism in human potential and the willingness to subordinate one's ego to a higher purpose . Frankl uses an eye analogy to illustrate the point. A healthy eye, Frankl notes, "sees nothing of itself," yet it is eminently useful to the whole (35).
Finally , this study will consider how the characters change over time. Special attention will be paid to any shifts in worldview or outlook as well as subtler attitudinal shifts such as from pessimism to optimism, or a past orientation toward a future orientation. This study will identify possible causes for such shifts, paying close attention 25 to any motivational crises and resolutions in an effort to determine if logotherapeutic practices play a role in character development.
Frankl warns against reductionism in psychiatric practice and he extends this caution ta literary criticism. In paiticular, Frankl addresses psychoanalytic criticism, warning against the danger of treating literature solely "as a product of unconscious psychodynamics" ( Unheard Cry 87). He contends that language is more than mere self expression, but rather "it is always pointing to something beyond itself ... it is self transcendent-as is human existence at large" (89). In this way, Frankl concludes, literature itself may be therapeutic for writers "who have themselves gone through the hell of despair over the apparent meaninglessness of life [and] can offer their suffering as a sacrifice on the altar of humankind" (90). This therapeutic potential can only occur, however, if new meanings are opened up rather than foreclosed. 26
The central paradox of The Adventures of Augie March is encapsulated in the opening paragraph of the novel when Augie proclaims, "I am an American, Chicago born
. . . and I go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle, and I will make the record in my own way ... But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus . .. " (AM 1). A great deal of attention has been given to Bellow's unusual syntax, here and elsewhere, as well as his treatment of his adopted American culture in general; however, some of the deeper philosophical implications of Augie 's opening proclamation appear to have been overlooked. Augie ' s asse1tion that he goes at things as he has taught himself , "freestyle ," underscores his obsession with avoiding social conditioning and conformity. Augie immediately qualifies his asse1tion with a "but"-" But a man ' s character is his fate" (my emphasis). Fate is the salient word for it points to Augie's true fear of being determined.
It is not just social conditioning Augie wants to overcome but rather it is his gnawing sense that somehow every move he makes in life is predetermined by his training and his temperament. Augie longs for freedom and by extension a sense of meaning and purpose; however, his unce1tainty produces existential frustration that must be overcome before he can fully actualize his latent potential.
For Frankl, free will is a sine qua non for meaningful existence. Frankl maintains that human beings are not "fully conditioned and determined ," but rather retain the 27 capacity to choose their own response to life's challenges (Man's Search 133). Of course it is incumbent on each individual to determine what the meaningful response is to any given situation and it is also their responsibility to act in accordance with this determination. Frankl envisions freedom as "the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness" (134). The gap between freedom and responsibility, between potential and actualization, creates a certain tension which,
Frankl maintains, is necessary for mental hygiene (109). When this tension is absent an existen tial vacuum ensues. This vacuum may drive individuals to create tension by
"deliberate ly placing demands on" themselves or by "voluntarily exposing [themselves] to stress situations" (Unheard C,y 96). Augie demonstrates this type of behavior with his criminal exploits.
Recalling his sophomore year in high school, Augie states, "All the influenc es were lined up for me," explicitly acknowledging the social pressures he struggles to overcome throughout the novel (AM 45). This qualifier serves as the lead in to Augie's account of his first caper, stealing money from Deever's depaitment store. Initially, Augie points to the influence of Jimmy Klein, a criminal compatriot who initiates Augie into his unlawful adventures; however, a closer examination indicates a more influential factor, Grandma
Lausch. From the outset of Augie's association with Jimmy, Grandma Lausch is critical of their relationship, insisting that the "Klein boy will get you [Augie] into trouble" ( 45).
The fact that Augie uses his ill-gotten gains for mere frivolity-"Mama got a bath robe, the old woman a cameo pin, Georgie plaid stockings, and Simon a shi1t" - demonstrates
Augie does not need the money per se, indicating , instead , some other unmet need (46). 28
Of course Augie might also be motivated by approval needs; however, when one considers the totality of Augie's experience the possibility of existential frustration appears more likely.
The commitment of Augie's younger brother, George, to an asylum, for example, immediately precedes Augie 's inaugural crime and reinforces the impression of existential frustration. Augie admits that his family life deteriorates after George 's commitment, "as though it were the care of George that had been the basis of hou sehold union" (AM 61). In this sense Augie experiences the loss of Frankl's second criteria
(experiencing something or encountering someone) for he loves his brother dearl y and he demonstrates a deep sense of responsibility toward his immediate family. The gifts Augie bestows bear this out. He gives his mother and bro~hers mticles of clothing , useful items that provide comfort and warmth. He gives his Grandma Lausch a cameo pin , an impractical memento symbolic of the transient nature of her role in the family.
Augie resents his grandmother for committing George and his desire to resist her control is reflected in his crime. As Joseph McCadden observes, Augie resists "all the domineering characters who seek to control his freedom-loving personality" and his
Grandma Lausch ranks hi gh on this list (63). But another need also appea rs to be operating in Augie's life for he intuits that mechanical non conformit y can be just as determining as blind conformity. Augie's vacillation between extremes of obstinat e resi stance and abject surrender to the whims and wills of others reflect s his struggle to find direction and purpose in life. 29
Augie expresses this very sentiment when he admits: "I longed for very much, but I didn't understand for what" (AM 90). Ever the romantic, Augie pines for Edenic clarity, for simpler, "unconscious, nature-painted times, like those of Sicilian shepherd lovers"
(90). He laments that "when there is no shepherd-Sicily, no free-hand nature-painting, but deep city vexation instead," then meaning becomes more elusive (90). One is "forced into deep city aims," and involved with a "crowd that yields results with more difficulty and reluctance" (91). Bellow's frequent use of modifiers, often hyphenated adjectives, amplifies the impression of overwhelming stimuli and the multiplicity of ideas Augie is confronted with in modern Chicago. One gains the sense that Augie is drowning in options and afraid to commit to any course of action. At other times, as when he agrees to travel to Mexico with Thea to help train an eagle to hunt iguanas or when he consents to serve as Leon Trotsky's chaperone, Augie appears to leap at the most ludicrous alternative much as a drowning man will grasp at any life-line.
This is the impression one is left with when Augie embarks on his most dangerous criminal endeavor, the robbery of the le_ather-goods store on Lincoln Avenue. Augie's response to Joe Gorman's invitation to take part in the caper- "! didn't say no"-is particularly telling, especially when one considers Augie's own admission that he has
"oppos ition" in him, a "great desire to offer resistance and say 'No!"' (AM 122; 126).
The question becomes, why does Augie not say no to Gorman? We know that after the caper Augie determines .that robbery is not his dish and he tells Gorman as much, fully
"prepared to be called yellow" (124). It appears that approval needs do not rank high with Augie and, as before, he is not in dire need of money. Augie 's actions make more 30 sense, however , when one considers his existential frustration. Augie is adrift, tensionless and purposeless. This lack creates a vacuum that prompts Augie to adopt artificial stressors. Augie's criminal exploits, indeed all of Augie's occupations, reflect Augie's abiding need for meaning and provide him with a degree of tension .
There are limits to Augie's excesses however. When Einhorn asks Augie if he is a
"real crook," for example, if he has ever been tempted to steal from him, Augie takes umbrage and becomes "violent and excited" (AM 125). Augie is clearly possessed of a conscience and recoils from the suggestion that he might steal from someone whom he knows and admires. In contrast, Einhorn's objections to Augie's involvement in the robbery are entirely pragmatic. He is conc erned only with consequences , warning Augie of what might happen if he were caught. He offers no moral objections knowing full well that Augie is aware of his own "multifarious swindles" (126). Instead, Einhorn offers a
Mephistophelian admonition, suggesting to Augie that he be more thoughtful in his schemes. "In the end," Einhorn cautions, "you can't save your soul and your life by thought. But if you think, the least of the consolation prizes is the world " (126).
For Augie , the world is not enough, as he demonstrates when he sacrifices his relationship with Lucy Magnus , an affluent heire ss, to help his friend Mimi secure an illegal abortion. Augie's relationship with Lucy provides another example of his surrendering his will to the whims of another. Simon, Augie's older brother , fixes him up with Lucy to help bolster his own position within the Magnus empire. Simon's hope is that Augie's maniage to Lucy will consolidate his own position as an in-law up-and com er in the Magnus clan. Augie initially accedes to Simon's scheme but he balks at the 31 penultimate moment. Augie does not "mount the step of power," claiming , "I could have done so for love, but not to get to the objective" (AM 270).
Of course, Augie enjoys a less obstructed vantage that does the more pragmatic
Simon. Augie is aware, for example, of his brother's despondency. Despite Simon's success in marriage and in money, he admits to Augie that he has entertained thoughts of suicide (AM 213) . As the two swim in Lake Michigan Augie observes that "it made a strong appeal to him [Simon] to go down and not come up again" (251 ). Despite the outward appearance of success, Simon displays signs of Frankl 's "neurotic triad," more specifically, depression "and its sequel, suicide" ( Unheard Cry 26). Augie profits from
Simon's example, recogni zing in his older brother the "face of a man in the wrong," a man with "too much noise of life around him for a right decision to be made" (AM 216).
Augie's insight deepens further still, McCadden points out, midway through the novel "w ith the hero growing in his understanding oflove" (75). Ironically, Augie's insight stems, in part, from his life-saving efforts on behalf of Mimi, a friend whose life is put in jeopardy by her own efforts to terminate the life of her fetus. Though Augie does not agree with Mimi's decision to terminate her unwanted pregnancy or with her nihilistic notion that life is "only an accident," he nonetheless does all he can to aid her efforts and to ensure she receives medical treatment when she begins to hemorrhage even though he knows it will likely cost him his relationship with Lucy (AM 277). Augie 's lesson appears to be that "love saves it [life] from being an accident," and love involves acceptance and sacrifice (277). 32
Augie's insight is made explicit when he divulges his intuition about the "axial lines of life, with respect to which your life must be straight or your life is mere clownery"
(AM 494). Augie describes these lines as "Truth, love, peace, bounty, usefulness, [and] harmony" (494). Augie's effo11s on Mimi's behalfrepresent the first time in the novel when he manages to align his actions along these lines. Shmtly after, however, Augie confuses the agape love demonstrated in his sacrifice for Mimi with the romantic love he feels, first for Thea and then later for Stella. Augie drifts from his axial lines and instead aligns himself with Eros. Once again he begins to display signs of existential frustration.
When Augie's relationship with Thea begins to deteriorate he turns to· alcohol, drinking to excess and fu1ther exacerbating his situation (411).
Both Augie and his brother Simon demonstrate signs of existential frustration.
Augie's criminal exploits and alcohol abuse represent the first two legs of Frankl' s neurotic triad and Simon ' s death wish represents the third. Only Augie intuits a remedy, however. Augie's axial lines bear an uncanny resemblance to Frankl ' s meaning making criteria. Though Augie demonstrates the type of love Frankl speaks to with his second criteria when he makes his selfless sacrifice for Mimi and in his devotion to his brother
George, he relies more heavily on Frankl's first criteria (creating a work or doing a deed).
Augie admits as much when he states that his "various jobs " provide the "Rosetta stone" to his existence (AM 29). Augie's occupations provide only limited respite from his existential frustration however , perhaps because many his jobs are not of his own choosing , but rather are thrust upon him by others. The temporary relief Augie derives from his various vocations also reflects the dynamic nature of meaning-making: what 33 proves meaningful today may not tomorrow. Augie gains an appreciation for both these factors as the novel progresses and appears to arrive at a satisfactory solution. By novel's end, Atlas observes, Augie appears to find a purpose: "he has 'written out these memoirs of mine' . .. Augie has become a writer" (189).
Herzog begins, "If I am out of my mind, it's alright with me" (Herzog [H] 3). This line, we come to learn, is delivered tongue-in-cheek , providing both a preview of
Herzog's sense of humor and a hint as to his state of mind. Much has been made of
Herzog's unique brand of self-deprecating humor. Sarah Blacher Cohen is of the opinion that Herzog is "more a self-ridiculing than a self-righteous Job," and she goes on to argue that he employs "his rapier wit for both self-dissection and salvation" (36; 62). Richard
Poirier takes a dimmer view , holding that the opening line "is a joke about the hero's
'rightness' and his 'thinking' that maybe we're expected to carry like a tuning fork through the rest of the book" (67). For Lauren Cardon, the novel's opening line
"exemplifies Herzog's making light of a serious situation ," to help him "achieve a comfortable distance from a horrific situation" (104). Cardon's contention suggests yet another alternative. If one considers the opening line as signifying that Herzog is literally outside of his own mind, his own consciousness, and that he is comfortable in that condition, then Cardon's contention that Herzog has gained distance from his horrific circumstance is clarified somewhat. 34
This begs the question, why is Herzog content to be outside himself? Unlike Augie,
Herzog is a mature, accomplished man with a keen appreciation for the power of ideas or, rather, as the title of Wilson's monograph suggests, the limits of ideas. In "Herzog: A
Reading from the Dark Side," Wilson suggests that "if one idea is uppermost in Herzog's mind it is that people who live by ideas need debunking" (111). "Herzog's ultimate goal,"
Wilson continues, "is a kind of transcendental peace, an inner and outer quietness: he yearns to still the babble of tongues inside him, to rid his mind of clutter and to exorcise the ghosts of his disastrous marriage" (111 ). How he does so is the question to which this study will now turn.
First, however, one must have a clear understanding of what it is that is plaguing
Herzog. As Cardon observes, Herzog has, "in a sense, experienced the loss of all three of
[Frankl's meaning-making] elements: he has abandoned his life's work, a project on
Romanticism through which he had hoped to instruct the world in overcoming the modern malaise; he is betrayed by his wife, his best friend, and others he trusts ; he feels himself losing his sanity and questions whether his is already insane" (87). Herzog's violent impulses reinforce the impression of distress and suppo1t Cardon's suggestion that Herzog is experi encing existential frustration. Herzog ente1tains violent fantasies about Madeleine after she asks for a divorce, wondering what it might have been like to
"have .torn her clothes, ripped off her necklace , [and] brought his fists down on her head"
(H 12). Herzog's violent impulses rise above mere fancy when he retrieves his father' s pistol from his desk and sets out to murder Madeleine and Gersbach. 35
Though Herzog's thoughts and actions often appear desperate, even dire, one also gains the sense that Madeleine and Gersbach are never in any real danger. The overwhelming impression imparted by Herzog is one of agonized confusion. Herzog's irreverent manner and steadfast humor help to mitigate any ominous overtones. Tony
Tanner observes that "Herzog is a representative modern mind, swamped with ideas, metaphysics, and values, and surrounded by messy facts. It labours to cope with them all"
(10). This labor, the mental exertion Herzog demonstrates throughout the novel, instills a sense of confidence that his eff011swill ultimately bear fruit, that he will indeed cope with the "mixed swarm of facts, notions and ideas" he is beset with and regain a foothold on his sanity (11).
Cardon examines Herzog within the framework of trauma studies in an effort to reveal how he recovers from the personal insults he endures as well as the underlying unease he experiences related to the "modern malaise" (87). Cardon points to Herzog's letter writing as a preliminary step in his recovery, likening it to the compensation activity exhibited by concentration camp survivors immediatel y after liberation. Frankl observed former prisoners who could not seem to stop talking, noting that the desire to speak seemed itrnsistible (Man's Search 96). Cardon contends that Herzog's letters,
"though compulsive, represent Herzog's first attempts to cope with the various traumas of professional failure, betrayal, personal loss, and mental instabilit y" (90).
Herzog's letter writing also contains critical clues about the true nature of his suffering. Shortly after Madeleine asks for a divorce Herzog is "overcome by the need to explain, to have it out, to justify, to put into perspective, to make amends" (H 4). Herzog 36 attempts to put things in perspective by composing a series of fragmentary letters addressed to three main audiences. The first category of letters, Cardon observes, represent Herzog's "attempt to reach an honest plateau about his anger toward those who have betrayed him" (90). Included in this group are letters addressed to Madeleine ,
Gersbach, Dr. Edvig, and others who have injured him personally . This group of letters
"provides Herzog with a safe outlet for his rage as well as a means of organizing his thoughts and emotions in order to understand his pain " (Cardon 90).
The profile becomes more compl icated with the second category of letters. In the second group, Cardon observes, "Herzog takes an intellectual position toward the philosophers and theorists who have contributed their nihilistic views to the modem condition" (90). Two thinkers in pa1ticular, Heidegger and Nietzsche, occupy much of
Herzog's attention. Urszula Woroniecka cites as an example Herzog's ironic query to
Heidegger: "I should like to know what you mean by the expression 'the fall into the quotidian.' When did this fall occur? Where were we standing when it happened?" (H
55). Woroniecka draws attention to Herzog's paradoxical chall enge to Heidegger's
"assertion that humans tend to completely immerse themselves in the most prosaic aspects of life" in order to avoid "the discomf01t of pondering one's own death , fear and authentic existence" (34). Woroniecka goes on to note that though "Her zog celebrat es the concept of ordinary experience .. . he cannot implement it in his life" (34) . Instead ,
Herzog dwells in discomfott through much of the novel while pondering the state of his own existence, much as Heidegger prescribes. 37
Herzog demonstrates characteristic Bellovian ambivalence toward Nietzsche as well.
Bellow originally intended the title of his short story "Who Breathes Overhead" to be
"Amor Fati," a title inspired by Nietzsche ' s Ecce Homo Section 10: "My formula for greatness in a human being is amorfati: that one wants nothing to be different ... Not merely to bear what is necessary, still less conceal it ... but love it" (qtd. in Leader 336).
This is the very concept Frank l takes up in his third criteria and, we come to learn, it is the goal Herzog labors toward throughout the novel. Despite this, Herzog tangles with ce11ain aspects of Nietzsche's thinking. In a letter to Professor Mermelstein , for example,
Herzog allows that suffering commonly breaks people instead of making them stronger, that it "crushes them and is simply unilluminating" (H 345). In another letter Herzog questions Nietzsche's treatment of the "power of the Dionysian spirit to endure the sight of the terrible ... to witness Decomposition , Hideousness, Evil" and still recover (347).
These passages underscore Herzog's ambiva lence . On the one hand he aspires toward
Nietzsche's formulation, toward amorfati , and on the other he reacts against the reality of suffering and he existence of evil.
Herzog's reaction is informed by Maitin Corner's description of the "patho logy of average twentieth-century consciousness as it is formed within discourse" (371 ). Corner observes that Herzog and Sammler are alike in that each live "within an unceasing discursive effort to describe the world coherently to themselves" (372). The problem for
Herzog is that he "cannot act morally toward either Made leine or Gersbach, or indeed toward any others" because as long as he is locked within the patterns of his own 38 perception he lacks the "ability to see the world beyond his own interpretations" (374;
Corner goes on to note "that an important pait of Herzog's ethical incapacity ... comes from his inability to love the world" (375). This inability relates back to Cardon's description of Herzog 's desire to "instruct the world in overcoming the modern malaise"
(87). Clearly Herzog is dissatisfied with much in his own life; however , Herzog's unease is not grounded in his own paiticular traumas or insults but rather is embedded within the problem of evil itself. If one examines the various insults Herzog endures and the intellectual positions he assumes in his second category of letters then a theme begins to emerge in the form of the problem of evil or, more specifically, the problem of modern evil, the type of evil exemplified by the Holocaust.
Herzog's fixation on the problem of evil is revealed in two ways. The first can be seen in Herzog's anti-German bias. Several statements contribute to the impression that he harbors resentments toward those of German extraction as a result of the holocaust.
One example occurs when Herzog admits that Germany's post-war economic prosperity
"is not altogether agreeable to contemplate" (H 83). Another occurs when Herzog ridicules "those German existentialists who tell you how good dread is for you" (295).
Herzog includes Nietzsche in this group when he opines that some of his expressions
"have a very Germanic ring" (34 7). Though Herzog takes issue with a great many thinkers, the only ones he reduces to their nationality are those of German extract ion.
Finally, upon recalling the sexual assault he endured as a child, Herzog relates the advice given him by a Christian lady at the hospital: "Give and it shall be given you" (314). 39
Herzog again demonstrates his bias when he comments: "Well, there is a piece of famous advice, grand advice even if it is German" (314). In this way Herzog participates in some of the same reductionism he critiques throughout the novel, the same dehumanizing reductionism that made the Holocaust possible. Herzog exhibits signs that he is aware of this paradox, however. As Andrea Mannis observes, Herzog "implies that humanity is responsible [for the Holocaust] because the whole world allowed these injustices to take place. The phrase 'We burned them to ashes, we buried them alive with bulldozers' suggests the complicity of many during the Nazi Holocaust" (36).
The second way Bellow reveals Herzog's preoccupation with the problem of evil is in his presentation of child-abuse. Allan Chavkin maintaii;is that Bellow's goal in presenting various accounts of child abuse "is not merely to focus upon social evil but to evoke metaphysical evil" (The Problem of Suffering 167). Chavkin further maintains that the "persecution of innocent children, a motif of the novel that surfaces in the cryptic reference to Madeleine's having been sexually abused as a child and Herzog 's memory of having been sodomized by a pederast forces him in [the courtroom] scene to see the inadequacy of his bookish idealism" (168). This observation has merit but what stands out more is the ubiquity of gratuitous suffering. The child -killer, Madeleine, and Herzog all share a history of childhood abuse. The child murderer revisits her abuse on her own child, reinforc ing, for Herzog, those "lessons of the real " embodied in the
"monstrou sness of life" (H 261 ). This insight prompts an irrational fear in Herzog that
Madeleine might do the same to June, triggering Herzog's rescue mission. 40
June's rescue, however, is merely a rationalization of Herzog's desire for vengeance.
He flees the courtroom and sets out to do murder on the flimsiest of pretexts. Herzog, like the child-killer, embodies evil when he sets out to victimize his own child by murdering her mother. He arrives at this conclusion himself when, upon reaching Madeleine's home intent upon murder, he witnesses Gersbach lovingly bathing June. Herzog's dehumanizing discursive reductions are finally dispelled when confronted with the multifaceted reality of Gersbach. Herzog's epiphany is captured in his thought: "The human soul is amphib ian ... It lives in more elements than I will ever know" (H 280).
Here Herzog tacitly acknowledges that any reduction of humanity, or individuals, to the ir constituent pmts will always be inadequate. He comes to appreciate that this is true of him as well and he begins to accept responsibility for resisting the allure of reductionism and the evil it fosters.
The third category of letters Cardon describes are "those in which [Herzog] takes a spiritual position toward the religious figures in his life, including God" (91). Cardon notes that these letters, like the earlier categories, provide Herzog with catharsis. No doubt this is true; however, these letters, pa1ticularly those addressed to God, do something more. Like humor, Herzog's prayers provide a degree of self-detachment.
They grant him distance from his chaotic thoughts and provide an indispensable touchstone to help contend with the insoluble metaphysical quandaries evoked by his personal pain. The two are intertwined and Herzog's spiritual communion provides a link with his humanity while he plumbs the depths of his thoughts and emotions. 41
One prayer is pa1iicularly revealing: "How my mind has struggled to make coherent
sense. I have not been too good at it. But have desired to do your unknowable will, taking
it, and you, without symbols. Everything of intensest significance. Especially if divested
of me" (H 354). Herzog reveals his distrust of symbols, interpretations, 01ihodoxies, and
doctrines but he does not discard the solace provided by faith. Herzog affirms that though
there is much his mind cannot encompass, he has faith in universal order and meaning.
He rejects nihilistic conclusions to the contrary and affirms life despite the existence of
suffering. Herzog exemplifies the freedom to adopt one's attitude toward unavoidable
suffering described by Frankl' s third criteria. He chooses his response, faith in a created
order, and expresses a Job like willingness to endure life's trials without complaint: "to
be just as it is willed ... for as long as I remain in occupancy" (370). Herzog's faith is
not idle, however, but reflects what Herzog considers life 's most meaningful task, "our
employment by other human beings and their employment by us" (H 55). Herzog's
actions near the end of the novel, the restoration of June's piano and the plans he makes to attend parents' day with Marco, indicate the renewal of the universal connections
embodied by Frankl's second criteria.
Sammler, too, places faith in God; however, the tone of Mr. Sammler 's Plan et is
often bleak, nearly humorless when compared to Herzog or The Adventures of Augie
March . Daniel Fuchs attributes the novel's bleakness to "the fact that the suffering of the
central character is no longer inseparable from pleasure ... because normalcy is in 42 extremis" (87). This is not surprising given Sammler's age and experience. Sammler is a septuagenarian who feels alienated from the vitality and apparent immorality of modern
New York. Sammler's wartime experiences fmther remove him from the normal run of things. During the war Sammler, his wife, and "sixty or seventy others, all stripped naked and having dug their own grave, were fired upon and fell in" (MSP 75). Unlike Frankl,
Sammler does not avoid the Nazi selection process; however, he miraculously evades death, crawling from the mass grave to join the Polish paitisan movement. Incredibly, anti-Semitic sentiments among the partisans again put Sammler's life in jeopardy at war's end, forcing him to take refuge in a mausoleum for several months. It is in this second grave where Sammler first turns "to the external world for curious ciphers and portents" to help make sense of his suffering (73). The key eludes Sammler for much of his life, and his recovery is retarded in an ironic inversion of Frankl ' s "delusion ofrepriev e"
(Man's Search 23).
Twice Sammler is interred in a grave and twice he returns to the land of the living.
He cannot credit his own survival, however, "since so much of the earlier person had disappeared. It wasn't surviving, it was o~ly lasting" (MSP 74). The narrative voice never makes explicit whether the earlier person who disappears is the pre-Holocaust Sammler before his brushes with death, or if it is the young war-time Sammler versus the septuagenarian Sammler in modern New York. This indeterminacy reinforces the impression that Sammler is "eaten up ... because coherence is lacking" (75) . Sammler's confusion is exacerbated by a deluge of stimuli. As Corner observes, Sammler "is overwhelmed by a simultaneity of memories and impressions; he looks for some unique 43 key or cipher, some Kabbalistic node that will reveal the hidden coherence of the world"
(3 72). Like Herzog, Sammler seeks to make meaning of some particularl y painful experiences; however, Sammler does not resort to thought to resolve the apparent inconsistencies but instead seeks a symbol to help resolve the picture.
Like Oedipus, Sammler unwittingly seeks himself. Sammler recalls how Adolf
Eichmann, a Nazi bureaucrat involved with implementing the final solution and the subject of Hanna Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, testified that he had been sickened for days by "the fresh blood welling up at his shoes" as he strode over a mass grave not unlike the one in which Sammler was left for dead
(MSP 112). Eichmann , a recurring syml?ol of evil in the novel, expresses more disgust upon witnessing the after effects of murder than Sammler does when he calmly executes an unarmed German soldier after the man makes a plea for his life. In this way Sammler becomes his own symbol. Perhaps because of his participation in the war, Sammler adopts a degree of responsibility for Nazi atrocities and as a result he proceeds to live a sort of half-life, an inversion of the "delusion of reprieve" that revolves around his belief that he did not actually escape his would-be executioners . He simultaneously abhors evil and is drawn to it, concluding: "Man is a killer. Man has a moral nature. The anomaly can only be resolved by insanity" (162). This paradox provides the crux of Sammler 's suffering. He is racked with guilt because he participates in the very evil that sickened
Eichmann. Sammler's faith in God never waivers but his opinion of humanity 's redemptive potential is und ermined. 44
Sammler's critique of Arendt's treatment of evil in Eichmann in Jerusalem informs
his declining opinion of humanity. When asked his opinion of the "Banality of Evil,"
Sammler contends that intellectuals (like Arendt) do not understand because they "get their notions about matters like this from literature" (MSP 13). In particular, Sammler
appears to take up with some other readers of Arendt's who conclude that she minimizes
Eichmann's culpability in the Holocaust "because she denied malice and forethought,"
when in fact her main point is that "Eichmann's harmless intentions did not mitigate his
responsibility" (Neiman 272). Sammler's dismissive treatment of Arendt's ideas
resembles nothing so much as displaced anger at himself for his own indulgence in evil.
Sammler indicts himself in his critique of Arendt: "Everybody knows what murder is.
That is very old human knowledge .... Banality is the disguise of a very powerful will to
abolish the conscience" (MSP 14).
For Sammler, moral knowledge is inherent, born, to borrow Corner's verbiage, "in a
pre-ethical category of attention" (3 71 ). For this reason Sammler seems to accept the
radical responsibility advocated by Arendt for political reasons, and recommended by
Frankl for psychological reasons. Despite this accord, Sammler displays pessimism for
such a project when he points to a "powerful will to abolish the conscience" (MSP 14).
What Sammler describes is an innate human knowledge of right and wrong and a
concomitant desire to eradicate this knowledge.
Sammler's declining view of humanity is exemplified by both his war-time
experiences and his observations in modern New York. As Gordon observes, "Sammler ,
the elderly Holocaust survivor, is an unimpeachable moral arbiter, so the disorder of New 45
York in the late 1960s is likened to the honors of Europe under the Nazis, as if the world is collapsing again" (156). Sammler's impression of even the most opulent sections of
New York support this observation: "You opened a jeweled door into degradation, from hypercivilized Byzantine luxury straight into the state of nature, the barbarous world of color erupting from beneath" (MSP 4). Some have argued that Bellow , in Mr. Sammler 's
Planet , extends his critique of modernism by lambasting the counter-culture movement in
America in the 1960s. Gordon in particular, points to the omission of any reference to the
Vietnam War in Mr. Sammler 's Planet and Sammler's reaction to the student heckler at
Columbia as evidence of tacit approval of, or at least sympathy toward, American foreign policy during the period.
Certainly the omission of any reference to Vietnam is significant; however,
Gordon 's case may be slightly exaggerated for it is unlikely that Sammler would condone the slaughter in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict any more than he condones
Eisen nearly bludgeoning the black pickpocket to death in an effo1t to spare Lionel further mistreatment. For Sammler, the ends never justify the means. And though
Sammler demonstrates no affinity for the free-love , counter-culture radicals of the time, neither does he demonstrate any approval of the powers-that-be. The police, the sole representati ves of established authority in the novel, decline to respond to Sammler's report of a robbery . In fact, when Sammler asks the reporting office if he understands correctly, that "this man is going to rob more people , but you aren 't going to do anything," he is met with silence (MSP 10). The police, like the doorman of his building 46 and other perennial guardian symbols, are largely absent or ineffectual in Sammler 's world.
Sammler 's disillusionment is nearly universal. It is not confined to an age, an era, or a region but extends to humanity. Sammler views the world through lenses smoked by the chimneys of Auschwitz and darkened by his despair over human fallibility. His warped perceptions reduce those around him to parodies of human beings. As Gordon notes , "Apmt from Sammler, Elya Grunner, and Dr. Lal, the charcaters in Mr . Sammler 's
Planet are grotesques and lunatics" (156). The police are caricatures of corruption,
Arendt is an overly intellectual "bluestocking," the pickpocket is a one dimensional predator whose most memorable action is displaying his penis to Sammler in an effort to exert animalistic dominance over him , and Angela is signified solely by her lust.
Sammler' s despair over human vice and his own indulgence s seem to blind him to the blissful counterpoints to human foibles.
At one point Sammler's despair prompts him to consider suicide. For Sammler, experience, history , and ideas all become tangled in what he terms "nerve-spaghetti"
(MSP 117). He recalls how he found "it could be an ecstasy" to take a human life. He comprehends how the "maniacal push of certain ideas, themselves originally stupid," can persist and remain deadly centuries after inception (MSP 115; 117). Despite his confusion, or perhaps because of it, Sammler arrives at certain conclusions. One of the most depressing is his belief that killing is "an ancient privilege ... That mighty enjoyment of consuming the breath of men 's nostril s, swallowing their faces like a 47
Saturn" (118). It is on the point of such thinking that Sammler is furthest removed from his humanity and it is here he begins "to think of sleeping pills, poison " (117).
Sammler eludes death for over seventy years and manages to stave off suicide, but at times his hold on life appears tenuous. Part of Sammler remains in the grave: "He rejoined life ... But in some essential way he was also companionless ... Someone between human and non-human states, between content and emptiness, between full and void, meaning and non-meaning , between this world and no world" (MSP 240).
Sammler's recovery resides in his faith that "there is the same truth in the heart of every human being, or a splash of God's own spirit" (155). Becau se of his experiences, however , Sammler sometimes doubts "his destination, fearing there was nothing to receive him" (240). Sammler has trouble forgiving himself for killing the German soldier and remain s plagu ed by doubt that he might be damned for his sins. This helps account, as Chavkin observes, for why Sammler "remains dedicated to 'this death-burdened, rotting, spoiled, sullied, exasperating , sinful eaith" (Bellow and English 14).
Sammler's sense of duty anchors him in the land of the living . Samml er believes he was sent back because he was "meant to do something" (MSP 227). His duty is never made explicit; however, his asse1tion that human freedom encompasses both "sainthood and madness ," a notion that finds parallel in Frankl's "saints and swine" formulation , informs his duty (MSP 75). Though Sammler doubts he is a saint, his nephew Elya provides a positive symbol for him. The novel closes with Sammler praying over Elya's corpse. Sammler asks God to remember Elya, noting that he met "the terms of his contract" (260). Elya, from Sammler's vantage , lives a noble life and represents the 48 human potential to resist the tidal pull of vice. In the final sentence Sammler repeats his belief that "we all know" the terms of our contract (260). Though Sammler is not always certain of his ability to live up to those terms, the moral actions he displays throughout the novel demonstrate his willingness to try. Frankl contends that there are only "two races of men in this world ... the decent ... indecent," or saints and swine (Man's Search
94). Frankl concludes that the decent "will always form a minority," and he sees this as the very challenge to join the minority (155). Elya, for Sammler, is symbolic of this minority, and his loving forbearance points to the possibility that Sammler might finally forgive himself for past sins and recognize that he, too, has joined this saintly minority. 49
This study seeks to inform how human beings make meaning of their existence and their suffering. The task is complicated by the fact that every individual encounters the world through the subjective lens of their own experience. Environmental and hereditary variables are as innumerable as grains of sand on a beach , to say nothing of spiritual factors. And like grains of sand, every individual represents a continually shifting ideological position. Though each grain is influenced by and exerts influence over other grains in an interconnected mah·ix, no two grains may occupy exactly the same space at the same time. To extend the metaphor, occasional waves may break on the beachhead , disrupting the matrix and forcing individuals to reevaluate their position and reorient themselves to their new surroundings. This study focused on three such grains: Augie
March, Moses Herzog, and Artur Sammler , examining how the trio make sense of their respective positions on the beach while coping with successive waves disrupting their lives.
The study was guided by three primary questions: Do Augie, Herzog, or Sammler exhibit any signs of existential fiustration? Are the trio influenced by the "will to meaning"? And finally, how do the characters change over time and what role does logotherapy play in their change?
The results of the study indicate that all three characters do demonstrate signs and symptom s of nodg enie neurosis or existential frustration. Augie, for example, displays 50 what Frankl describes as the "main symptom" of an existential vacuum: boredom
(Unheard Cry 95). Frankl asse1is that the leisure time afforded to individuals in modern industrialized societies can result in a sense of purposelessness that often drives individuals to create artificial tensions in an attempt to infuse their lives with meaning.
Augie does this by engaging in criminal exploits. Frankl points to addictive behavior as another symptom of existential frustration. Augie 's overindulgent drinking during and after his failed relationship with Thea provides more evidence of noogenic neurosis.
Herzog and Sammler also exhibit signs of existential frustration. The violent fantasies Herzog ente1iained about his ex-wife, Madeleine, and his plan to murder
Madeleine and Gersbach represent the second leg of Frankl's neurotic triad: aggression.
Herzog's compulsive letter writing and repetitive thought patterns resemble Mate's definition of addiction and can be seen as representative the first leg of the neurotic triad.
Sammler' s suicidal ideation is emblematic of the third leg: depression.
The "will to meaning" also appears to operate among the trio as well. For Augie , the
"will to meaning" is best exemplified by his near obsession with ove1ihrowing societal expectations and achieving the type of "freedom in spite of determinism " described by
Frankl ( Unheard Cry 4 7). Augie intuits ce1iain "axial lines of life . .. Truth, love, peace, bounty, usefulness , [and] harmony," that aid him in achieving the freedom he seeks (AM
494). Paradoxically, these axial lines provide the very self-detachment Frankl describes as necessary to liberate one from conditioned reactions and to free one to act in a moral manner. The paradox, it seems, is that one must overcome oneself to be free. 51
Herzog's "will to meaning" is likewise exemplified by his effmis to overcome himself. For the bulk of the novel Herzog struggles to smi out his chaotic thoughts and emotions related to some particularly painful losses, and in the process he very nearly rationalizes his way into murdering his ex-wife and her lover. Ultimately Herzog recovers from his dalliance with evil by employing many of the same means Frankl describes his fellow prisoners using to overcome the horrors of the concentration camps.
As Cardon observes, Herzog uses humor to help "dispel the fear and tension" associated with his plight (104). Herzog cultivates relationships, with Ramona and others. Herzog leans on fond memories of his children to help shore up his flagging spirits, just as Frankl describes himself doing with the memory of his wife. Cardon also notes Herzog's renewed appreciation of nature toward the end of the novel when he discards his longstanding view of his home in the Berkshires "as the symbol of the downfall of his maniage" and instead comes to view his home as a "blend of the transcendental and the
Whitmanesque" (106). Finally, Herzog establishes future goals by recommitting to his role as a father and envisioning his future with his children in much the same way that
Frankl relied on images of lecturing at university about logotherapy as a means of coping with the horrors of camp life.
Sammler's "will to meaning" is more diffuse than either Augie or Herzog's. While
Sammler believes he was spared from death during the war because he was "meant to do something," that something is never made explicit (MSP 227). Instead we must infer
Sammler's meaning from his actions. Unlike Frankl, Sammler shows little interest in resunecting the unfinished manuscript he loses in the war. What we can say is that, 52 though his outlook is often bleak, his actions toward others are always moral and at times verge on heroic, as when he acts as a witness against the pickpocket at his own peril, or when he works to rescue first Lionel from the pickpocket and then the pickpocket from
Eisen. Sammler' s actions suggest that he believes he was spared from death so that he might atone for past sins by setting a moral example in an immoral world.
Finally, the study reveals that the characters all change to varying degrees during the course of the novels and logotherapeutic practices play a significant role in their
/ movement. Augie demonstrates the most dramatic change. Initially we find Augie adrift in a sea of stimuli, preoccupied with resisting societal expectations. Throughout the novel
Augie vadllates between obstinate nonconformity and abject surrender to the whims of others. By novel 's end Augie appears more self-assured. Augie aligns his actions along his "axial lines," lines which bear an uncanny resemblance to Frankl's meaning making criteria. Augie invests himself in his maniage to Stella, demonsh·ating Frankl's second criteria. Most notably, Augie finds meaning in being useful, his axial line that bears the strongest resemblance to Frankl's first criteria: "creating a work or doing a deed." Augie devotes himself to various occupations until he finally finds his calling: writing.
Unlike The Adventures of Augie March, which spans years chronicling Augie's coming of age, Herzog unfolds over the course of mere days. Herzog' s change involves coming to te1ms with his failed marriage, his feelings of betrayal, and his underlying unease with evil in the world. Herzog's distress revolve s around the actions of others and his challenge is accepting the world, such as it is, instead of imposing his expectations upon it. Herzog accomplishes this in a number of ways but perhaps the most significant 53 factor is the renewal of his faith in God. Herzog's conception of God serves as a critical psychological device that aids him to transcend his personal pain and affirm life despite the existence of evil and in spite of his own suffering. Herzog relies heavily on Frankl's final criteria and changes the attitude he takes toward his own suffering.
Sammler, too, is concerned with the problem of evil. Unlike Herzog, who aborts his murderous plot, Sammler actually takes a life and in so doing paiticipates in the very evil he abhors. The challenge for Sammler is one of self-acceptance. Sammler's guilt skews his perception, causing him to fixate on flaws and ignore attributes. Sammler steadfastly resists the allure of evil after the war, however, and works to atone for past sins by acting morally. Sammler's movement is subtle but by novel's end there are hints that he is approaching a point of self-forgiveness.
This thesis revealed some common themes running through all tlu·ee works. One such theme involves coming to terms with various aspects of life. Augie exemplifies coming to terms with a world that is largely unconcerned with the fate of a single individual , a world in which others frequently attempt to impose their will and their values on others. Herzog demonstrates the flip side of the coin: coming to terms with a world that does not conform to his expectations . Sammler embodies the difficulty involved in coming to terms with oneself. The tlu-ead that connects all tlu·ee is their unwitting reliance on logotherapeutic practices to help make meaning of their experiences and to help them accept a world that is largely oblivious to their individual plight. 54
Another theme that emerged is the trio's underlying concern with metaphysical questions. Augie is most_concerned with the question of free will and the attendant implications for personal responsibility. Herzog and Sammler are more concerned with the problem of evil, and their need to affirm life in the face of the abyss. The significance lies not in individual questions or questioners, but in the act of questioning. According to
Frankl, the "striving to find meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man" and the act of questioning reflects this motivation (Man's Search l 04).
One final note on common threads is the indeterminacy of the novel's conclusions.
We leave Augie on the road, speeding into a future pregnant with possibilities. Herzog leaves us in silence, not a word to say because he has things to do. Sammler leaves us with the impression that Elya's passing signifies not an ending but a new beginning . The novels close in media res with each character poised to fulfill future tasks. Frankl argues that mental hygiene is not served by "a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task" (Man's Search 110). Saul Bellow appears to agree, stating his belief "in the power of unfinished work to keep you alive"
(Atlas 596) . Augie, Herzog, and Sammler each embody this belief.
This study confined itself to meaning making in the broadest sense, in pm1 because so much has already been written about individual cultural, psychological, and linguistic aspects of Bellow's work, but also out of the need to draw these disparate strands together into a more unified whole. This thesis by no means exhausts the subject. Cunent scholarship on Bellow would benefit from a logotherapeutic examination of his entire oeuvre. In addition, more work needs to be done on Bellow himself. Interestingly , though 55
Bellow expressed reservations about many aspects of existentialist thought, the characters under study in this thesis readily lend themselves to existential analysis and employ logotherapeutic practices to cope with life's challenges. And, as previously noted, much of Bellow's work is autobiographical, raising interesting questions about Bellow 's position in regards to existentialist thinking. This work helps demonstrate the human need for meaning and purpose. More work can be done to show how this is accomplished. As Charlotte Buhler states, "All we can do is study the lives of people who seem to have found their answers to the question of what ultimately human life is about against those who have not" (qtd. in Frankl, Man's Search 146). This work provides but one step in that process . WORKS CITED 57
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