As a rule I never read the critical analyses of a novel before I’ve finished it myself, although I have sought help on Faulkner until I got used to him, and always check them out afterwards. And on a book without a dust jacket, such as this copy of Bellow’s Henderson (which, by the way, I find to be a first edition that I got for $1.00 at a library sale and is likely a bit more valuable!), where I have no idea what the story is about and am deliberating between books as to what to read next (according to mood), I have checked Amazon’s page for a clue.
There it was said that Henderson possibly represented America in his bold, brash, superior manner towards life and towards third world countries. Hmm, interesting, I thought.
Keeping this stored somewhere in the back of my mind while reading, I could see a possible basis for the theory and wished that I could become so intuitive as to recognize something such as this in novels all by myself. Then I got to page 260:
"Americans are supposed to be dumb but they are willing to go into this. It isn’t just me. You have to think about white Protestantism and the Constitution and the Civil War and capitalism and winning the West. All the major tasks and the big conquests were done before my time. That left the biggest problem of all, which was to encounter death. We’ve just got to do something about it. It isn’t just me. Millions of Americans have gone forth since the war to redeem the present and discover the future. (…) And it’s the destiny of my generation of Americans to go out in the world and try to find the wisdom of life. It just is. Why the hell do you think I’m out here, anyway?"
Well that certainly didn’t take a lot of intuition to arrive at this conclusion, now did it.