Mr. Sammler's Planet Essay - Critical Essays

Saul Bellow

Critical Evaluation

The backdrop for this novel is not only New York’s diversity and decay; it is also the excitement then in the air about the Apollo Moon landing and the potential of a new frontier for humanity. Sammler, a character many have seen to be a thinly disguised Saul Bellow, is not so sure about humanity’s potential at all. He is greatly disturbed with the many forms of madness that are destroying the planet. Leaving the planet to inhabit a more pure one is no solution; the notion of purity will do nothing but bring about more violence such as the Holocaust.

Generally in his novels, Bellow allows for a solution, hard-won to be sure, to humanity’s problems, and Mr. Sammler’s Planet is no exception. During his travails in dealing with late twentieth century America, Sammler is still able to come to a moment of peace and of rebirth as he stands over Elya’s body. His prayer shows that Elya’s death brings about another rebirth in Sammler—this time into a life that can overcome the narrowness of his own modern thinking. Elya’s contradictory life of perfect giving to Sammler during the Holocaust and in America and his imperfection in the taking of Mafia abortion money make Sammler aware of the great contradictions in life. He sees in Elya a great life spent living out the knowledge that one must live one’s life for others, not only for one’s self. Although Elya showed weakness, his ability to give remained exemplary.

Upon its...

(The entire section is 551 words.)