Study Guide

Herzog Love

By Saul Bellow

Love

There was a flavor of subjugation in his love for Madeleine. Since she was domineering, and since he loved her, he had to accept the flavor that was given. (1.41)

Herzog can be passive when it comes to loving. For example, he's more than willing to take whatever love Madeleine gives him because he's not the type to step up and demand to have things his way. In tough times, he's more likely to retreat inward like a hermit crab.

Theirs was not a marriage that could last. Madeleine had never loved him. She was telling him that. (1.44)

When the time comes to split, Madeleine tells Herzog she never loved him. It's tough to know whether this is true, because Madeleine's Aunt Zelda denies it later on. But that's the trouble with love. It's tough to prove when it's there or not.

"No, she respects you. She fell out of love with you, that's all. Women fall out of love." (2.35)

Aunt Zelda is certain that Madeleine was once in love with Herzog. She just fell out of love over time. If people can fall in love, it makes sense that they can fall out of love.

Delighted, Moses began to grin. His face wrinkled tenderly at the thought of his children. How well kids understand what love is! (2.159)

Moses admires children for knowing how to love much better than adults do. Children have a dependent love on their parents when they (children) are very young. But as they get older and more independent, they lose this innocence and start thinking more strategically about who they do or don't love.

"You and she—it's no secret from anybody—are the two people I love most." (2.215)

Val Gersbach has no trouble telling Herzog that he loves him even as he (Val) has an affair with Madeleine. It's tough to interpret this sentence once we know what's going on. Is it possible for Val to love Herzog even while betraying him so badly? You be the judge.

And you fell in love with her yourself, didn't you? Just as she planned. She wanted you to help her dump me. (2.251)

Herzog knows how manipulative Madeleine can be. He even suspects that she got Herzog's psychiatrist, Dr. Edvig, to fall in love with her so he could then persuade Herzog to accept a clean divorce.

The child would not reject his well-meant gift. There was love in that, thought Herzog. (4.6)

Even when his child doesn't appreciate a gift from him, Herzog knows that the child will still accept it out of love alone. This thought comforts him during a difficult time, because it's starting to seem as though all the other love in his life is totally conditional.

To haunt the past like this—to love the dead! (4.244)

Herzog knows it's weird for him to still have so much love for people who've been dead a long while, especially when he's feeling so little love from the world of the living. But what's a guy going to do? He needs to find love somewhere.

My heart was suffocated by this horror. I thought I would die of it. Whom did I ever love as I loved them? (4.291)

Herzog's father wasn't the world's greatest dad, but Herzog still loved him deeply. In fact, he wonders if he has ever loved anyone in his life as much as he loved his family when he was younger.

"Madeleine's greatest ambition, I think, is to fall in love." (5.230)

Herzog thinks that Madeleine has never known love in her entire life because she's too self-obsessed. She's just in love with the idea of being in love. Or in other words, falling in love isn't something that just happens to her. It's one of her life goals, along with having a career and a family.

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