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HUMANISM IN SAUL BELLOWS THE DEANS DECEMBER Dr S.S.

Gill The clash of cultures, science versus humanism, the search for self-know ledge in a foreign land and coming to terms with death are the issues on which B ellow has focused his creative imagination in the novel The Deans December. For t his reason Gilbert Porter calls Bellow a new transcendentalist1 as his principal ar ea of enquiry is the phenomenology of selfhood 2 . In this novel, Bellow embarks upon the territory of social description and prescription so largely abandoned by novelist during this century 3 .Bellow has always been showing this profound co ncern for human values. At the same time, Bellow depicts the problem of human di fferences in this novel, because this issue is closely connected with human rela tions and responsibility since meaningful relationships can only be possible if one is willing to accept the differences between human beings. His heroes all su ffer from humanities yet they do not merely suffer, they act or rather they speak . Through Herzog, Bellow communicates that the novelist can show, the strength of a mans virtue or spiritual capacity measured by his ordinary life.4 This paper deals with this measures that exhorts Bellow to reject Wastela nd pessimism and set his heroes on this journey where they need to know what it is to be human. The Deans December provides conclusive insights into the American dilemma , first and foremost it concentrates on the mental, sensual and spiritual proces ses instrumental in procuring such insights . The novel deals with philosophical ideas, haphazard violence, corruption of language, deceptive appearance and eve n death. Susan Roland comments: The novel ranges from philosophical speculations to probings of apparently rando m violence and depictions of the intimacy of family life. Cordes quest for realit y and transactions traverses through contemporary corruption of language, appear ances, death. His consciousness delicately poised, Corde is seen as the novels co nnection between warring boundaries .5 Bellow demonstrates the role of the individual self in a mass politicize d society. When Dean Corde argues that the Hegelian spirit of the time is in us by nature, he makes an important point that Corde belongs like others to the col lective life of the country. However, some persons simply accept the prevailing chaotic conditions, refusing to view them with detected objectivity. Corde endea vors to bring some kind of a perspective on the problem from which he will be ab le to learn a lesson about the essential human condition. Therefore, the indivi duality with him means being responsible and sensitive to the course history and he is not sympathetic to those who demand absolute extinction of individuality. Corde observes To belong fully to the life of the country gave one strength, but why should these others, in their strength, demand that ones own sense of exist ence.. be dismissed with contempt 6. Albert Corde the protagonist in The Deans December, a former journalist i s now the Dean of student at a Chicago College. His effort is to improve the q uality of life by restoring love and human concern. He tries to establish order, discipline and stability in a nihilistic society. He is disillusioned by the ci ty culture of Chicago where crime is increasing, emotional quotient deterioratin g, love and concern for one another vanishing in this materialistic society. Eve ntually in this self-absorbed internal world, the external world that he inhabits begins to lose its distinction6 . Corde observes that the political and social p roblems are too complex for a qualitative approach. He emphasizes the need for a more sophisticated approach for tackling these problems. Bellow points out that even intellectuals like social scientists, journalists, and psychologists are e vading, details of the underlying reality through false descriptions. Bellow bel ieves that: ...there is correspondence between outer and inner, between the brutalized city and psyche of its citizens. Given their human resources, I dont see how people to day can experience life at all. Politicians, public figures, professors, address Modern Problems solely in terms of employment. They assume that unemployment caus es incoherence, sexual disorders, the abandonment of children, robbery, rape and murder. Plainly, they have no imagination of these evils. And in The Deans Decem

ber what I did, way to say, look! The first step is to display the facts. But the facts. Perhaps I shouldnt say perceives I should say passionately takes hold. As an a rtist does. Mr. Corde, The Dean, passionately hold of Chicago and writes his art icle like an artist rather than a journalist 7. It is the external factor that obstructs the expression of inner desire to communicate with others through love. The yearning of the self is to absorb c ity culture and to promote surely what one feels. Cordes desire is to be honest t o the truth, an essential quality of love, but social expectations and conformit y render him helpless. Though he is in possession of the essentials of love, i.e . responsibility ,knowledge, care, respect, welfare yet feels helpless in showin g all these essentials in a materialism in contemporary society. We meet Albert Corde; he is in Romania. He has accompanied his wife, Min na a world renowned astronomer- to visit her dying mother, a doctor who has fal len out of grace with the communist party. Corde situation in Romania is claustro phobic. He had come with his wife to lend support to her mother , Valeria. He ra rely speaks with the local inhabitants because, Language was a problem. People sp oke little French, less English (DD7). Staying at house of his mother-in-law, Cor de experiences isolation. Life seems to him irregular in all spheres. In Buchares t, the American Corde finds himself physically, socially, professionally and li nguistically cut off from his regular life in Chicago8. His predicament can be se en in Josephs, the protagonist of Bellows first novel Dangling Man. However, Josep hs alienation is self-imposed. Albert Cordes situation is not his own choosing, but he is largely isolated from those who visit Valerias apartment by his inabili ty to speak the language and aware of his importance in a society in which he is literally alien. He consequently spends much of his time as Joseph did, brooding alone in a dingy room looking out on to a depressing city scape. The Dean too is dangling man susp ended between two worlds as seeks a meaning for human history, and putting a m isplaced faith in the certainly of his own understanding 9. Albert Cordes mother-in-law has suffered a heart attack and she is in the intensive care unit. Visitors are forbidden to go there. All are intimated by t he secret police. As a defector to the West shielded by an American passport and husband Minna is hardly in favour with the authorities. Most troublesome of all is a colonel in the secret police. Thus, a cruel and unforgiving bureaucracy, r epresented by a colonel, is using its power to prevent Minna from visiting her m other in the hospital. The energies of Corde and Minna are mainly expended on a struggle with this bureaucracy as they try first to arrange to see Valeria in t he hospital and then, after her death, to give her a dignified funeral. During t his time Corde lives in Valerias decaying apartment. He is visited by relatives and well-wishes. He observes the bleak existence of the inmates of what he calls a penitentiary society grubbing for even the most basic material necessities and silenced by fear of wire tapers and informers. His distaste for this grim place is aggravated by his anxieties about Minna, who he fears still be subject to R omanian law, In The Deans December, Bellow more directly attacks negative social f orces that challenge human dignity 10. On his visit to the crematorium, Corde accompanied Minna to make arrange ment for her mothers funeral; he was astonished by confronting the material fact of death that it undermines rather than reinforces rational orthodoxy. Standing there, he acknowledges that the earth and its creatures contain within them the material fact of connection. Finding that his perceptions are becoming much mor e clear and singular as he contemplates the fact of his mother-in-laws death, Cor de reflects: Valeia was certainly dead. She had died and she was dead, and last arrangements were being made. But he couldnt say that she was dead to him. It wouldnt have been an accurate statement, one might call a comforting illusion, but in fact there was nothing at all comforting about it, he could take no comfort in it. Nor was it anything resembling an illusion. She was more like an internal fact of which he became conscious. He hadnt been looking for it. And he was not prompted to fi nd a rational cause for this. Rationality of this sort left him cold. He owned it nothing. It was particularity that interested him (DD 175-76).

Corde is convinced that this internal fact is his transcendent connection to Valeria, despite her physical obliteration. The only possible language for ar ticulating the internal fact of Valerias inextinguishable life is the range of at tachment. Corde knows that he loves Valeria even though he cannot empirically l ocate the seat of loves power. Corde understands that his love for Valeria is rea lly a mystery emanating from an invisible source that something to which we assign names but we cannot objectively locate. Brooding over the burning of Valerias body, Corde sees his old friend Dew ey Spangler with awakened eyes. It is a direct manifestation of Cordes developing power of attachment. Then for some reason, with no feeling of abruptness, he became curiously absorbe d in Dewey He say now that Spangler was down slanted in spirit. Seeing him so actu al, vanities were dissipated, you were in no position to judge, and there was no need for judging May be on this death day Corde was receiving secret guidance in seeing life. Perhaps at this very moment in seeing life. Perhaps at this very moment flames were finishing Valeria, and therefore it was especially important to think what a human being really was (DD 242). Corde discovers the power and freedom of attached observation. In such a vivid form of attachment, he comes to know that this soul has a life freehold. He understands that there is no freedom, no reality without connection. What you didnt pass though your soul didnt even existReality didnt exist out there. It began to be real only when the soul found its underlying truth. In generalities there was no coherence none(DD 262). The highest responsibility for man then is to real ize the world by connecting with its particular. Corde affirms, more directly th an any previous Bellow protagonist, the souls connection to creation11. After Valerias funeral Corde challenges, in conversation with Vlada Voyni ch, Professor Beechs assumption that Liberal humanist culture is weak because it l acks scientific knowledge(DD 220). He tells Vlada that a misplaced faith in scien tific knowledge may constitute the real source of current social and cultural d istress. Although Corde is convinced that Professor Beech is a man of feeling an d even a visionary yet Corde finds the scientists language highly dangerous. Cord e says, where Beech sees poison lead, I see poison thought or poison theory. The view we held of the martial world may put a case as heavy as lead (DD 225). As Cor de shifts between immediate events in Romania and troubling developments at hom e, Bellow juxtaposes the worlds of Bucharest and Chicago, past and present, East and West. Like the Chicago Winter it constantly recalls, December in Bucharest more than the end of a year. More than the old social order is dying. At both e nds of the world, Bellow suggests the values by which humankind has aligned itse lf with creation are being obliterated. Moral principles, the distinction betwee n good and evil, have been abandoned. Mechanization concepts and data are the of reality only approved signposts. To erode, contemporary society is a monstrous superstructure precariously erected. In The Deans December, Bellow presents his most horrified version of a mo dern world on the edge of apocalypse. Both Bucharest and Chicago are examined th rough the shifts of consciousness of the protagonist to reveal significant resem blances. America as represented here by Chicago is an urban hell and male domina ted. In Bucharest, the oppressors are men but at all that is positive and healin g comes from women. In this world of women. Cordes own testing takes place. He has to prove his worth to Valeria for getting married to her daughter, Minna. Corde has a reputation as a swinger. But he insists on having decency, maturity, intelligence, responsibility and marital stands. Albert Corde is a protestant. Bellows protagonists are burdened with prob lems and many of them are related to their Jewishness. Corde too has several pro blems. However, they are not monumental problems interfering with life but rathe r the disturbances of everyday living. These problems call for an inner strengt h that comes with security of place, self-acceptance and social acceptance. Cord e does not wrestle with angels or alter egos. He is eventually a strong individua l with a moral mission to right the wrongs of the worlds or at least to dissemin ate information concerning troubled mankind12. Whenever, Corde gets an opportunit y he discourses upon, Western humanism, civilized morality, nihilism East and Wes

t (DD 68). Albert Corde shows the strength of character during all phases of his life. The novel The Deans December ends with a clear picture of connection with society . This vision is not the product of mere sentiments. Saul Bellow firmly suggests that the soul and the world are together so subjectively related. This internal fact constitutes. Cordes ultimate revelation of this bond with all people. You were drawn to feel to penetrate further as if you were being informed that what was spread over had to do with your existence, down to the very blood and t he crystal forms inside your bones. Rocks, trees, animals, men and women, these also drew you to penetrate further, under the distortions (comparable to the atm ospheric ones, shadows with shadows), to find their real being with your own (DD 306). From this deep experience of attachment Albert Cordes consciousness is t ranscended. Works Cited: 1. Gilbert Porker. Whence the Power? The Artistry and humanity of . Saul Bellow. (Missouri: univ. Of Missouri Press,1974) 195. 2. Nathan A. Scott. Three American Moralist: Mailer,Bellow, Trilling ( Nortre Dame,Ind. :UNiv. Of NortreDame Press,1973)105. 3 .Daniel Fuchs. Saul Bellow: Visin and Revision.(New Delhi:Affiliated EastWest PressPvt.Ltd.1992)84. 4. Robert Alter. After the Tradition: Essays On Modern Jewish Writing ( New York: Dutton,1969)18. 5. Susan Roland, The Need for alchemy Saul Ballow Journal 13:2(Fall 1995) 29 6. Saul Bellow. The Deans December ( New York,1982)117. Subsequent references w ill be incorporated in the text with an abbreviation DD. 7 Jonathan Wilson.On Saul bellows Plant, Reading from the Dark Side ( New jersey: fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press,1985)31. 8. Ellen Pifer. Saul Bellow:Against the Grain( Philadelphia: Univ. Of Pennysylvnia Press,1990)165. 9 Peter Hyland. Saul Bellow ( New York : St. Martins Press,1992)92. 10 Roger Matuz.ed. Saul Bellow Contemporary Literary Criticism ( Detroit:Gale research Inc. 1991)26 11. Ellen Pifer, 176 12 L.H. Goldman. Saul Bellows Moral Vision:A Critical Study of the Jewish Expeien ce ( New York: Irvington publishers Inc.1983)239.