Herzog | Study Guide

Saul Bellow

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Herzog | Chapter 7 | Summary



Herzog leaves immediately for Chicago to see his daughter, June Herzog, and confront Madeleine Pontritter and Valentine Gersbach. His first stop once he lands is his deceased father's house where he visits his father's second wife, Tante Taube. During the visit, he searches his father's desk and finds what he was looking for, a pistol. It has two bullets in the chamber. Heading to Madeleine's house, Herzog indulges in murderous fantasies. He will kill them both.

He arrives at the house through the back alley and looks through the windows. He sees Madeleine washing dishes and Gersbach bathing June. He is struck by how much the little girl looks like a Herzog, and how happy she is as Gersbach very tenderly bathes her. In that moment Moses realizes he has no will to kill anyone and recognizes it is unlikely his father ever had it either. Much relieved he leaves and heads for Phoebe Gersbach's home.

Herzog arrives at Phoebe's unannounced. She lets him in but refuses to help. He kisses her on the head and leaves. He arranges to sleep at Lucas Asphalter's and asks his friend to arrange a visit with June. Grateful for Lucas's friendship and a place to spend the night, Herzog's eyes well with emotion. "Potato love," Herzog acknowledges. It has become a positive term. Lucas tells Herzog about the death of his monkey and the ways in which he learned to mourn his loss. Herzog attempts to comfort his friend.


At the beginning of this chapter, Herzog is consumed with his rage, but seeing his daughter being cared for quells his anger. He comes back to his usual attitude, which shows respect and gratitude for people. Even while he is still boiling over and seeking the pistol, he is kind to his stepmother, Tante Taube. Later that day he is also kind to Phoebe Gersbach despite her unwillingness to help him. And he attempts to comfort Lucas and assure him mourning an animal is not different from mourning the loss of a human.

After seeing June, Moses seems able to bear his past without the drama he had previously assigned to it. He recalls his father's terrible rage with a new understanding. Herzog had visited to borrow money. His father, who had not forgiven him for marrying a Christian, against his own set beliefs, and for his lack of economic stability, went for his pistol. Herzog had credited Tante Taube with saving him, but now acknowledges his father's threat was simply that. He is certain his father did not mean to kill him, just as Moses admits he would not go through with murder either.

Herzog seems to have arrived at a new and practical calm. This comes out strongly in the conversation about the death of Lucas's monkey, Rocco. Moses explains to Lucas how his extended mourning practice is an evasion. He compares it to his own escapes from pain, writing letters. He calls the letters constructions, into which he had put his "whole heart." He ends his conversation for that night with Lucas by insisting, "I really believe that brotherhood is what makes a man human." He argues truly engaging with other human beings is the way you overcome dread of death. Instead, he now says, "you cultivate it." He adds consciousness, when you don't know what you live or die for, "can only abuse and ridicule itself." In thinking of others Herzog seems to be able to find some peace. Instead of mourning and raging over his own injuries, he begins to empathize with others and is able to see his own recent turmoil more clearly.

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