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The Development of Heroism in Saul Bellow’s Works a Case Study of His Three Heroes

Author GuoQinYan
Tutor HuLei
School Southwestern University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Heroism Individualism-oriented Hero Parodied Absurd Hero New Bellovian Hero Modern Crisis
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Heroism has been a long-term topic in the literature history. From Greek mythology to the modern works, the heroes have been characterized by their typical actions and thoughts; from immortal gods to mortal men, the common people substitutes have been suffering great pains and death to rescue human beings. Since the appearance of this image, many a writer has been trying to portray such characters to reveal their ambitions. Bellow’s three works, The Adventure of Augie March, Seize the Day and Henderson the Rain King, have all taken on his strong desire for rescuing people in modern crisis. This thesis commences on Bellow’s three protagonists in his three novels who are the embodiments of Bellow’s conception of heroism and makes a tentative analysis of the status quo of Bellow’s three representative protagonists and their attempts to change them through the heroism developing from the traditional one to the new Bellovian one; thus it digs out Bellow’s optimistic version of life and his belief in human beings’power to live in the modern world.This thesis consists of five parts:The first part "Introduction" makes a brief literature review of Saul Bellow’s works at home and abroad and presents the concise narration of the history of hero in literature history. The significance of this thesis is included in this part. The first chapter "Augie:An Individualism-oriented Hero" makes an analysis of Augie in The Adventure of Augie march, who is typical of traditional heroes. Both his opposition to authority and proposition for self-improvement have given a suggestion that he has been fighting against others’control and for his real existence. However, such traditional spirit fails to give Bellow a satisfactory answer which helps modern people out of crisis. Augie, the representative of thousands of people, is still on the way to the solution.Chapter two "Wilhelm:A Parodied Absurd Hero" further reveals Bellow’s exploration of his own heroism to help modern people out of crisis. In this chapter, Bellow gives up the well-established tradition and image by modeling a half-creative character:Wilhelm. This literal image is formed on the basis of an absurd hero. Whereas his difference lies in the fact that Wilhelm breaks up with the bondage of traditional absurd hero and wakes up at the end of the novel. His awakening consciousness should be realized by its instruction on practice. It is apparent that Bellow’s parodied hero hasn’t given the precise answer to how to walk out of the modern crisis.After the first two attempts, the third chapter has taken on a new Bellovian hero. This time Bellow has found the appropriate heroism to lead people out of the spiritual crisis. Henderson’s incessant motion is still the type of Bellow’s character and such inheritance has changed him from a passive escaper into an active savior. Apart from that, Bellow has let Henderson give two very precious presents to the modern people:one is his transcendence of death; the other one is to place self on the correct position. These two gifts make people understand the meanings of life and self’s existence.The last part conclusion digs out the meaning of Bellow’s attempts at heroism and the importance of finding the way out of modern crisis. Furthermore, this thesis elaborates on common people’s belief in their lives and the writer’s responsibility.

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