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Literature: Seize the Day

Oh, this was a day of reckoning. It was a day, he thought, on which, willing or not, he would take a good close look at the truth.

A novella by Nobel-winning writer Saul Bellow, Seize the Day (1956) tells the story of Tommy Wilhelm and his father Dr. Adler, who both live in a large city, brood over their life, and struggle with the problems which they have with each other. Much place is devoted to the philosophical views expressed by Tamkin, an experienced stock player who became a sort of father figure for Tommy. (The book is in no way connected with Joyce's Ulysses.) The plot concentrates on the attempts of Tommy to get a sufficient amount of money to put things in his life in relative order. However, as this is a realist novel, further problems ensue - and the reader is not told whether this is due to Tommy's childishness, Adler's indifference, or the overall condition of contemporary society.

Provides examples of:

  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: Or, at least, Dr. Adler is. Tommy's own attitude may be seen as an avertion of this trope.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: An interesting, metaphorical example: Tommy attends a stranger's funeral but mourns for himself. This may suggest that everyone is more or less in Tommy's position, which would make him Everyman.
  • Con Man: Tamkin.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Tommy and his wife are a classic example.
  • I Have No Son: To put it mildly, Dr. Adler is not very proud of Tommy.
  • Man Child: According to Alfred Kazin's interpretation, Tommy is one.
  • The Shrink: We do not know if Tamkin really is one (probably not), but the fact that he presents himself in this way is meaningful to the plot.
  • Trickster Mentor: Tamkin, in a way. The matter is complicated, because he doesn't primarily aim at giving Tommy a lesson but at getting advantage of him.

Sector GeneralLiterature of the 1950sA Separate Peace
The Secret HistoryLit FicA Separate Peace

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