Henderson, waiting to meet with the officials of the village, finds that he’s broken his bridge and this brings recall of his dentist, his past, and a meeting with his grown son.
But a father is a father after all, and I had gone as far as California to try to talk to Edward. (p. 120)
This doesn’t seem to say much, and yet for me it epitomized Henderson’s thinking. He’s talking about flying from Connecticut to California. That’s all, 3000 miles. This is a man who’s been traveling all over the world all his life. He doesn’t quite get it, that this should not be considered a great accomplishment for a father to do for his son, particularly one in his situation. He’s reminded us many times throughout the narrative that a) he has loads of money, and b) he doesn’t have a regular job or responsibilities. Henderson seems apart from reality, such as shown by the advice he gives his son at this time:
"You should become a doctor. Why don’t you go to medical school? Please go to medical school, Edward."
"Why should I?"
"There are lots of good reasons. I happen to know that you worry about your health. You take Queen Bee tablets. Now I know that…" (p. 120)
That is just too funny. It emphasizes that part of Henderson’s feeling of being out of touch with the rest of the world is obviously true, and likely self-imposed. Bellow then mellows this insight into Henderson’s oddity by this rather heavy philosophical statement he makes just moments later:
"Oh, I am a fighter. I fight very hard."
"What do you fight for, Dad?" said Edward.
"Why," I said, "what do I fight for? Hell, for the truth. Yes, that’s it, the truth. Against falsehood. But most of the fighting is against myself." (p. 121)
He knows, and doesn’t know that he knows, so he knows not. I love this guy.