Study Guide

Simkin in Herzog

By Saul Bellow

Simkin

Simkin is Moses Herzog's friend, but he's also his lawyer. And like any good lawyer, Simkin knows when to give his client some good ol' fashioned straight talk and tough love. When we first meet him, we see him "sitting" in front of Herzog and getting ready to speak. But there's a quietness to the guy that can be off-putting. As the text says,

Simkin was not so much sitting as lying in this seat. With his large thick back and small thighs, his head shaggy and aggressive and his hands folded small and timid on his belly, he spoke to Herzog in a diffident, almost meek tone. (2.5)

Don't let the soft tone fool you. Simkin is a practical, strategic thinker who won't beat around the bush for long. But even though he gives Herzog some harsh truths, Herzog knows it's all for the best. As he thinks at one point,

Simkin liked him; Herzog didn't doubt that. But as a practical realist a man like Simkin had to perform exercises, and a certain amount of malice kept him in condition. (2.14)

In other words, Simkin isn't a mean dude at heart. But being a lawyer, he needs to stay sharp-witted and sharp-tongued in order to do his job effectively.

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