Study Guide

Herzog House in the Berkshires

By Saul Bellow

House in the Berkshires

Of all the mistakes Herzog made while he was married to Madeleine, buying a house in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts has to be up there. Herzog was so anxious to get a place for his new wife that he bought a house without doing any inspections. And it turns out that he bought himself a huge money pit. The place is falling apart and it costs more to fix than the house is even worth. Oops.

Yup, the Berkshires house is an expensive dump. And you better believe Moses "Overthink" Herzog internalizes this. As he drives up to the house at the end of the book, he muses.

[And] here (his heart trembled) the house rose out of weeds, vines, trees, and blossoms. Herzog's folly! Monument to his sincere and loving idiocy, to the unrecognized evils of his character, symbol of his Jewish struggle for a solid footing in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant America. (9.2)

Here we go again. The house is his folly. A monument to his idiocy. Symbolic of his evil. Symbolic of his religion. Symbolic of the struggle of all Jews in America. Good grief.

The house is symbolic Herzog's (many, many) anxieties, and it's initially tempting to reach inside the book and smack him over the head with a frying pan. But it actually works well for him to put all of his ego-driven symbolic eggs into one run-down house basket.

When, late in the novel, Herzog tidies up the house, he also tidies up his mind. Like him, the house is rundown, but it still has potential.

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