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Charlie Citrine is one of the typical intellectuals suffering through a crisis of choice in Saul Bellow’s novels. In Humboldt’s Gift, Charlie is a young intellectual who moves to Greenwich Village to pursue friendship with the poet Humboldt, a writing career, and a mystical philosophical system known as anthroposophy. Although most of the external action in the novel is provided by a sub-plot involving various shady characters, the most important thematic progression has to do with whether Charlie, who has made a great deal of money from a single Broadway hit, will continue to do inconsequential but lucrative writing or dedicate himself to nurturing his own literary talent and improving the world. Thus his main crisis is that of being true to his art or focussing on commercial success.
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