Henderson the Rain King

by Saul Bellow

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Why is Henderson such a mess?

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Eugene Henderson is a man completely possessed by what is going to happen next, or what his next trial might be. In fact, he is frequently compared in the novel with the mythical hero Odysseus. His soul is possessed by an indomitable thirst for adventure and new experiences, this is comically evidenced by his short lived attempt to become a pig farmer before he embarks upon his quest to Africa.

With regard to Henderson, being a millionaire and a father of five, most people would assume or expect of him to settle down and turn his thoughts towards resting after a successful life. However, Henderson cannot stop his adventures. He has a thirst for life experiences that cannot be satiated, and whether this is a blessing or a curse is up to interpretation. He also often humorously blunders his way toward success, evidenced by his experiences with the tribes of Africa, certainly giving him the appearance of a figurative "mess."

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