Study Guide

Ramona in Herzog

By Saul Bellow

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Confident and Beautiful

Just when Herzog thinks his life is over, an intelligent and beautiful woman named Ramona walks into his life and wants to be with him. Our first impression of her tells us that she's a confident and capable woman:

Ramona was a business woman, she owned a flower ship on Lexington Avenue. She was not young—probably in her thirties; she wouldn't tell Moses her exact age—but she was extremely attractive, slightly foreign, well-educated. (1.88)

Educated, sensitive, and attractive—she sounds like Herzog's dream girl, but Herzog is wary of rushing into another relationship after getting so badly burned by his ex.

Pure Physical Attraction

The more Herzog finds out about Ramona, the harder it is for him to resist her. At one point, the narrator tells us:

Then he realized suddenly that Ramona had made herself into a sort of sexual professional (or priestess). (1.103)

This doesn't mean that Ramona is a prostitute, but just that she's really good in the sack. Not only is Ramona intelligent and beautiful, she's also a vixen. This knowledge only makes Herzog's decision to avoid her more difficult. Whenever he's away from her, all he can do is picture what she'd look like if he saw her across the room:

He could image that—Ramona laughing, talking, her shoulders bare in one of her peasant blouses (they were marvelous, feminine shoulders, he had to admit that), her hair in black curls, her face, her mouth painted. (1.140)

But in the end, Herzog knows that if he starts a sexual relationship with her it will end in marriage—which he doesn't want.

So What's the Problem, Moses?

He doesn't want to marry her, but he knows that his anti-marriage stance is more out of fear than logic. As he thinks to himself,

From many points of view, Ramona truly was a desirable wife. She was understanding. Educated. Well situated in New York. Money. (3.5)

Seriously, Moses. What's the problem? Well the problem is Moses. He's so emotionally scarred from his last marriage that he doesn't believe Ramona can be as good as she seems. Still, by the end of this book Moses has come around and is willing to give his relationship with Ramona a fair chance… and this decision supports the idea that he's starting to get over his past and look to the future.

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