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Herzog | Study Guide

Saul Bellow

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Herzog | Chapter 9 | Summary



Moses Herzog returns to the Ludeyville house and the beautiful acres, which without human care have become something of a bird sanctuary. He surveys the house and attempts to free the insects and birds that have taken refuge inside. He feels joy for the first time as "he felt what it was to be free of Madeleine." Dragging the mattress from the marriage bed into June's room, he rests in a shaft of sunlight and begins to "consider another series of letters." These letters all make amends. Tempted to invite Ramona Donsell to drive up from New York, he realizes he needs to make time for himself and for his children. He continues to assess what is important and real to his well-being, that of his family, and even to the wildlife that have invaded the house. He paints a small piano for June and writes a letter to Marco with plans for spending time together. He notes that "some of my oldest aims seem to have slid away."

Willie Herzog visits Ludeyville as promised and suggests Moses spend some time hospitalized and resting. Instead Moses decides to get some help from town and make the house properly habitable. He arranges for the power to be turned on and the house cleaned. When he discovers Ramona is in Barrington and wishes to see him, he invites her to dinner. He says goodbye to Will and returns to the house. He is relieved and happy and recognizes he wants merely to be peaceful and quiet; he has no messages for anyone and as the story ends is finished writing letters.


Although Herzog experiences himself as changed, it is difficult for other characters to see that. Willie's skepticism and reluctance to leave his brother alone is understandable. Moses is calm and full of good resolve. He seems to have chosen a woman more appropriate to his place and way of life than his prior partners. Still, the turn came for him after the rapturous night with Ramona, and Will is justified in being worried for his brother's susceptible heart.

Throughout, Moses is presented as a sensitive though spoiled man. In the end he is happy to have his brother bail him out financially. Although his optimism shines in this section, there is not much that has changed from the beginning except for his mood. He is simply a member of the flawed human race and can try and accept himself as that, so no further communications are needed.

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