Certainly there is an object that serves as leitmotif throughout this book, as it becomes nearly an annoyance to read again and again and yet be unable to ferret out it’s symbolism.
He said, "Why are you blustering at me so with your face? You have a perilous expression." (p. 242)
Then he sighed and said, with his ernest mouth which even in the shadow of his hat had a very red color, "Fear is a ruler of mankind. It has the biggest dominion of all." (p. 243)
I was gripping the inside of my cheek with my teeth, including the broken bridgework, while my eyes shut, slowly, and my face became, as I was highly aware, one huge mass of acceptance directed toward fate. (p. 210)
He still dangled a skull (perhaps of his father) by the long smooth ribbon and wore human teeth sewed to his large-brimmed hat. (p. 185)
When she came closer, I saw that her face was covered with a beautiful design of scars that looked like Braille. (p. 164)
I stood laughing under the big soiled helmet, my mouth expanded greatly. (p. 58)
And while of course I can’t find a single instance now, there are many references to noses, in particular, Henderson’s own.
So what is Bellow’s purpose in such display –or perhaps simply his own unacknowledged infatuation, fetish even–of the facial features? Is he implying that Henderson (or all of us, or all of Henderson’s type of person) are judging ourselves and others on appearance, so thus his search becomes something for the inner man?
Are mouths representative of lies or truth? Noses, a sixth sense? Or is it all a demand to take a closer look at each other and through awareness, communicate.
Or is it nothing at all.