Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day: is it any good?

saul-bellows-seize-the-dayWhen it came to concealing his troubles, Tommy Wilhelm was not less capable than the next fellow. So a least he thought, and there was a certain amount of evidence to back him up. He had once been an actor–no, not quite, an extra–and he knew what acting should be. Also, he was smoking a cigar, and when a man is smoking a cigar, wearing a hat, he has an advantage; it is harder to find out how he feels. He came from the twenty-third floor down to the lobby on the mezzanine to collect his mail before breakfast, and he believed– he hoped–that he looked passably well: doing all right. It was a matter of sheer hope, because there was not much that he could add to his present effort. On the fourteenth floor he looked for his father to enter the elevator; they often met at this hour, on the way to breakfast. If he worried about his appearance it was mainly for his old father’s sake. But there was no stop on the fourteenth, and the elevator sank and sank. Then the smooth door opened and the great dark-red uneven carpet that covered the lobby billowed toward Wilhelm’s feet. In the foreground the lobby was dark, sleepy. French drapes like sails kept out the sun, but three high, narrow windows were open, and in the blue air Wilhelm saw a pigeon about to light on the great chain that supported the marquee of the movie house directly underneath the lobby. For one moment he heard the wings beating strongly.

  1. The opening gives a sense that there is something different about this day. For example, Tommy and his father usually meet in the elevator, however, on this day, his father is already downstairs when Tommy comes down. Creating mystery – the reader wants to know why the day is different.
  2. Tommy Wilhelm is introduced as an ordinary man, making the reader wonder why he is the many character.
  3. Tommy Wilhelm’s character is presented in a humorous light as the narrator dances around his inability to conceal his problems.
  4. The reader learns a great amount about Tommy’s appearance and habits in the first paragraph through descriptive narrative.
  5. These are the opening lines of the novel, spoken by the third person, omniscient narrator. They establish certain thematic threads that will be woven throughout the book and that are, from the beginning, pointed out as important. [Spark Notes]
  6. Sets the scene making it out to be quite grand, great importance is shown in the appearance. It begins at the Hotel Gloriana where Tommy Wilhelm is staying.
  7. Range of sentence structure and punctuation.
  8. The author presents the setting as built up and over the top, creating the want to find out more about the place and why he is there.
  9. Faults are immediately displayed – he’s a failure.
  10. Wilhelm slowly makes his way to the hotel dining hall it slowly eases the reader into the situation.
  11. Starting with Troubles creates the mystery of what his troubles are.
  12. Makes the reader question WHY he is so eager to impress his Dad.



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