Bellow's hero is a contemporary portrait of the alienated American Jew in search of identity. He has been cuckolded by his best friend, Valentine Gersbach; both of his marriages have failed; and he has failed to achieve his intellectual quest to resolve the philosophical problems of Romanticism. He is no longer sure of who he is and what his goals are. To penetrate the shells of appearance which have concealed his real self, he wanders from place to place. In the process of his journeys, he is moving inward through his own chaos, sorting out memories of his past failures, classifying philosophical and psychological ideologies, and learning what he must do to reclaim — and maintain — his own destiny.