Places: Seize the Day

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1956

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Domestic realism

Time of work: 1950’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Manhattan

*Manhattan. Seize the DayBorough of New York City in which most of the novella’s action takes place, particularly among the fashionable neighborhoods near Broadway in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. During a single day, Tommy Wilhelm remembers growing up in his family home on West End Avenue, visits the brokerage house where his commodities are losing value, eats lunch with Dr. Tamkin in a nearby cafeteria, takes old Mr. Rappaport to a cigar store–all familiar locations on the Upper West Side in the 1950’s.

Gloriana

Gloriana. Aging Manhattan hotel. The major characters here, Tommy, his father (Dr. Adler), and his enigmatic advisor (Tamkin), all live at the Gloriana. Tommy spends time talking with Rubin at his newsstand in the lobby, eating breakfast with his father and then Tamkin in the dining room, and finally chasing Dr. Adler into the subterranean massage room where the father rejects his son. Housing mostly retired Jewish men and women, the Gloriana is contrasted with the Ansonia, a hotel built by turn-of-the-century architect Stanford White.

*Brooklyn

*Brooklyn. New York City borough that is home to Wilky’s family, his former wife and two sons. While it has been a site of much of Wilky’s suffering, it is also the location of Ebbets Field, where Wilky has taken his boys on happier days to watch the Dodgers play baseball.

*Los Angeles

*Los Angeles. Southern California home of Hollywood and the scene of Tommy’s first failure, in the 1930’s, when, lured by the idea of easy money, he goes to the West Coast hoping for a career as an actor, and there changes his name from Wilhelm Adler to Tommy Wilhelm.

Funeral parlor

Funeral parlor. Scene of Tommy’s final epiphany. At the end of the novel, searching for the elusive Tamkin, Tommy is pushed by a crowd into a funeral parlor, observes the corpse, and sobs. In Saul Bellow’s symbolic prose, Tommy achieves some kind of catharsis.

BibliographyBraham, Jeanne. A Sort of Columbus. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984. Examines Bellow’s novels as centering on the theme of discovery and how his heroes pursue a personal vision tempered by, yet transcending, the American experience.Clayton, John. Saul Bellow: In Defense of Man. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979. Discusses Bellow’s characters as alienated and paranoid, yet acting in such a way as to affirm the brotherhood of man.Newman, Judie. Saul Bellow and History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984. Provides a summary of critical opinions of Bellow’s religious and psychological views of life. Sees Bellow as a novelist concerned with the effect of history on his protagonists.Pifer, Ellen. Saul Bellow Against the Grain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990. Argues that each of Bellow’s heroes is in conflict with himself. The conflict between reason and religion ends with the hero’s affirmation of a metaphysical or intuitive truth.Trachtenberg, Stanley, comp. Critical Essays on Saul Bellow. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979. A compendium of the most significant critical essays about Bellow’s novels.
Categories: Places