Henderson the Rain King Characters

Saul Bellow

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Eugene Henderson

Eugene Henderson, a fifty-five-year-old millionaire from Danbury, Connecticut. He has been married twice and has five children. At a time when most people would be thinking of retirement and the end of life, Henderson is seized by wanderlust. Although he never precisely explains why he wants to go to Africa, in the course of his adventures it becomes clear that he is the kind of person who is curious about everything and who must find out what is over the next hill, like Odysseus, a classical character with whom he is compared. Before he leaves on his African journey, his restlessness is shown in his attempts to become a pig farmer and then a violinist. When Henderson arrives in Africa, he begins a journey into the continent’s interior that also turns out to be a journey to the interior of his life and soul. At the first village he visits, that of the Arnewi, he finds that the cattle are starving because the water cistern is full of frogs. He fashions a bomb, throws it into the cistern, and kills all the frogs, but he also blows a hole in the side of the cistern and loses the village’s water. In disgrace, he heads further inland to the country of the Wariki, where he unwittingly passes a series of tests that identify him as the tribal Sungo, or rain king. Henderson appears to be effective as the rain king, because it rains following ceremonies with which he is involved. He becomes friends with Dahfu, the king of the Wariki, and participates with him in rituals that also include a lioness, Atti, who lives in an underground enclosure. The king is killed trying to trap a lion, and Henderson is named king in his place. Henderson deduces that the...

(The entire section is 688 words.)

Henderson the Rain King Characters

As has been suggested in the above sections, Henderson the Rain King is a picaresque, or journey, novel, with a wide variety of...

(The entire section is 1691 words.)