The Bellarosa Connection Characters

Saul Bellow

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Sorella Fonstein, the central figure in the novel, is a woman of great intelligence. Her bulk and her plainness serve, to the narrator, as physical emblems of her inner strength and dignity. Unlike some other women portrayed in Bellow’s novels, Sorella is a “tiger wife” of admirable force and humanity. She does not subdue Harry with the force of her character but acts as his liberator, one who understands his need for respect beyond the middle-class values of success. She has impressed the narrator with her persistence and her wit. She takes on the role of the Furies to Billy Rose’s conscience, forcing him to acknowledge what his personal crudity and selfishness seek to conceal. Like the Furies of ancient Greek myth, Sorella is unbending, inexorable. There is nothing of self-consciousness, nothing of personal vanity in her campaign. It is deliberate, direct, and natural, like a life force.

Though his is the story that forms the central focus of the book, Harry Fonstein is, ironically, not the central character nor even a minor one. Though his rags-to-riches narrative is summarized early in the novel, Harry himself is a pointedly shadowy figure, existing on the periphery of the action. He has little dialogue, no movement, no real physical presence. Harry is, in fact, an abiding presence as a concept, a point of reference from which Sorella and the narrator develop their own courses of action.

Billy Rose, the half-real, half-fictional...

(The entire section is 438 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, who is never named. He tells the story because he is looking at a picture of Harry and Sorella Fonstein. the narrator cannot forget them, not only because they are the central figures of an interesting story but also because he cannot forget anything. He is the founder of Philadelphia’s Mnemosyne Institute, which trains people in techniques for improving their memories. the narrator has made millions in this business. At the time he tells the story, he has retired from the institute but retains his perfect memory. the narrator meets the Fonsteins in the United States and again in the 1950’s in Jerusalem. Thirty years later, he gets a call from a rabbi who says that an old man in his congregation claims to be related to Harry Fonstein, whom he thinks is rich. the rabbi asks the narrator to help him find Fonstein. the narrator, after many false starts, finally telephones the Fonsteins’ house. A house sitter informs him that the Fonsteins were killed in a wreck and that their son Gilbert, a memory expert, is now working the casinos in Las Vegas. the narrator realizes that his whole life has been taken up with memory, not only of facts and information but also of relationships; however, he has been able to understand little of what has happened. the narrator represents any Jew who tries to remember and understand the Jewish role in history, even the conflicts that Jews have among themselves.


(The entire section is 600 words.)