Study Guide

Herzog Chapter 9

By Saul Bellow

Chapter 9

  • Herzog retreats to his vacation home in the Berkshires. The house is super rundown, with mice and birds living all over the place. He can't believe he dumped so much money into this heap.
  • The longer he hangs out on his own, the better Herzog feels. He's lonely, but it's almost a good kind of loneliness.
  • He tries writing a letter to Ramona, but still finds that he doesn't know what to say. He doesn't know if he wants to push her away or pull her toward him. So he gives up and writes a letter to his son Marco saying that he'd like to take a Christmas trip together sometime.
  • The longest of Herzog's letters is addressed to a Professor Mermelstein, whose arguments were atrocious in Herzog's eyes a few years ago. But Herzog writes saying that he's come around to some of Mermelstein's ideas and that he hopes they can be friends.
  • The narrator tells us that this week in the Berkshires marks the end of Herzog's letter-writing campaign. It also tells us that Herzog never mailed a single one of the letters he wrote.
  • He tries to sit down and write some poetry instead. He addresses some messages directly to God. He speaks of how much he wishes he understood God's plan, though he knows he never will. For the next two or three days, Herzog just writes poetry about the nature of life, love, and death.
  • One day, Herzog's bro Willie rolls up the driveway in a Cadillac to see how Herz is doing. Again, Willie is unconvinced by Herzog's claims that he's feeling great. The two of them tour the rundown house and discuss Herzog's options for selling it, even if he loses money on the deal.
  • Herzog and Willie drive into the nearby town to call on a local handyman to put Herzog's house in order. Oh yeah, and it also turns out that Ramona has been around the town looking for Herzog. She left her number at the local gas station. Willie is worried about Herzog getting involved with another woman when he's not in his right mind. But Herzog insists that his thing with Ramona isn't serious.
  • Nonetheless, Ramona drives to Herzog and introduces herself to Herzog's brother. It's clear she likes meeting Herzog's family because she feels like this makes her more established in Herzog's life. She has a party to get back to and asks Herzog to come.
  • But he refuses and suggests that Ramona come have dinner with him at his Berkshire house. Ramona agrees and leaves. Shortly after, Willie leaves too, but not before warning Herzog against making any more "mistakes" in the marriage department.
  • Herzog heads back to his house and tries to get things ready for his dinner with Ramona. A cleaning woman comes over from the nearby town and helps him. Herzog wants to tell her to clean a certain way, but for the first time in a long while, he realizes he has nothing to say. He has no philosophical ideas, no great emotions to confess, and no letters to write. There's just silence inside him. Which is kind of nice, really, since the guy has been a blabbermouth through this entire book. Maybe what the guy needed all along was to listen without talking.

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