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Herzog

Saul Bellow

Character Analysis Sandor Himmelstein

Herzog's Chicago lawyer is physically challenged like Gersbach and like Nachman, Moses' boyhood friend. The physical deformity is a symbol of a distorted human personality, for Himmelstein treats human nature without emotion. He leans toward a pessimistic, Hobbesian concept of human nature as basically corrupt, brutal, and power hungry; for Sandor, life is treacherous. When he attacks emotionalism, Himmelstein is vulgar and crude. He advocates practicality and calculation.

Himmelstein is a major character because his theories are repulsive to Herzog, who resists them and, in so doing, is able to define his own humanistic concepts of human nature. Despite his vulgarity, even Himmelstein stimulates "potato love" in the protagonist. The hero is a fool to his lawyer, but Herzog prefers this condition to becoming hard-hearted. He rejects Himmelstein's harsh outlook and identifies it with the legal system of America. Consequently, Moses Herzog, in his antipathy to the nihilistic philosophies of his lawyers and others in the novel, is confirming his alienation from American materialism, Calvinism, and pragmatic, unemotional legality.