Study Guide

Herzog Chapter 7

By Saul Bellow

Chapter 7

  • Okay, it's time for Herzog to stop thinking and act. He decides to travel to Chicago to see his daughter June and confront Madeleine and Gersbach about how terribly they've treated him.
  • The first thing he does when he reaches Chicago, though, is visit his Father's widow (Herzog's very old stepmother). The woman lives in the old Herzog bungalow.
  • When he rings the doorbell, it takes his stepmother (who he calls Tante Taube) a long time to answer. Did we mention she's really old?
  • The two sit down and have the usual Herzog family chat about how hard life is. Herzog thinks back to a time when his father drew a gun on him while they were arguing about money, although no one ever felt threatened by the guy.
  • They all knew he didn't have the guts to use a gun. Come to think of it, Herzog thinks his father's gun might still be locked in the desk in Tante Taube's house. He gets the key to the desk from her and got to rummage. He finds the gun with two bullets in it and grabs a fistful of old Czarist rubles to give as a keepsake to his son Marco.
  • Now Herzog is on his way to Madeleine and Val's place with a loaded gun in his pocket. And judging by the thoughts racing through his head, he plans on murdering both of them. It seems fitting that his dad's gun had two bullets in it.
  • After arriving at Madeleine's place, Herzog stalks around the outside of the house. He peeks in a window and sees Madeleine walking around and tidying up. But seeing her just makes him want to see his daughter June. He looks in another window and sees Val giving June a bath and treating her like a tender father. Herzog realizes at this moment that he could pull out his gun and kill Val if he wanted.
  • He also realizes how egotistical he is for thinking that his daughter will never be able to become a full person without him (Herzog) in her life. Standing there outside the window, he realizes that he could never kill anyone. It's just not in him, just like it wasn't in his father.
  • But that doesn't mean Herzog is going to pack it up and leave Chicago. He still wants to visit Phoebe Gersbach (Val's wife) and tell her about Val's affair with Madeleine. He goes ahead and does this, but Phoebe is in total denial about the whole thing.
  • She refuses to believe that her marriage is coming to an end. The fact that Gersbach might love another woman doesn't matter to her. She just wants to make sure she and Gersbach stay married and that their child has a father in the house.
  • Herzog says that he is certain Gersbach will get tired of Madeleine once he (Herzog) is no longer in the picture. Herzog is convinced that Val has become sexually involved with Madeleine as a way of becoming closer to Herzog. Holy ego, Batman.
  • Phoebe shoos him out of the house and advises him to get out of town and not look back. It'll just be easier for everyone.
  • Herzog spends the night in Chicago with his old buddy Lucas Asphalter. He arranges to have Asphalter pick up June from Madeleine the next day, since Madeleine doesn't want to see Herzog.
  • They chat for a while about each other's lives, including the brutal blow Asphalter received when his pet monkey died. If you remember from earlier in the book, this is the same monkey Asphalter tried to save by performing mouth-to-mouth. Asphalter mentions that he's been dealing with depression and that one of the mental exercises his psychiatrist prescribed got him to imagine himself lying in a casket at his own funeral. Herzog thinks this is a terrible idea, though. We agree.

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