Study Guide

Zelda in Herzog

By Saul Bellow

Zelda

Moses Herzog has a weird habit of keeping up his friendships with the relatives of his ex-wife. He has an especially healthy friendship with Madeleine's aunt Zelda, who gives Herzog some useful advice about his divorce while insisting that Madeleine is still a good person. Zelda's not a softie, though: she knows that Herzog can be crafty and doesn't let her guard down in front of him. As Herzog realizes at their meeting,

Her downcast look, Moses at first took as agreement or sympathy; but he realized how wrong he was when he observed her nose. It was full of mistrust. (2.34)

On top of that, Herzog can sense that Zelda has a very close relationship to Madeleine, and now that he's on the outs with Maddy, Herzog is envious of their love

But he saw Aunt Zelda was inspired by a new sense of herself. Herzog envied her even this closeness to Madeleine. (2.45)

Like many characters in this book, Zelda wants to give Herzog good advice while still showing him the harsh truth about his circumstances. She more or less sums up her position when she says, "I am your friend. And I'm a truthful person" (2.83).

Zelda seems to take the words of the great Oscar Wilde—"A true friend stabs you in the front"—to heart.

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