Saul Bellow and the evolution of the American masculine experience: a study on Dangling Man, The Victim and Seize the Day
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The following thesis studies the philosophical and sociological background of three novels written by Saul Bellow between 1944 and 1956, namely Dangling Man, The Victim, and Seize the Day. During this period, the place of the individual in society changed rapidly and this created tension between the social organisation in place and individuals who struggled to find their place in society. The focus on individuality in Saul Bellow's early novels has led to the consensus that the author conveys ideas which relate to the philosophical current of Existentialism. This association has shadowed other aspects of these three novels such as their sociological relevancy. The purpose of this thesis is to expand upon the existentialist focus present in most criticism in order to demonstrate the sociological evolution of the American masculine experience. In turn, this aims to highlight the shift from a traditional image of masculinity based on heroism, personal ambition, and restrictive emotionality to a masculine identity more inclined to question its perception of itself and the world. To do so, it relates each novel to influential studies conducted at the time to offer an evolutionary perspective of the American masculine identity within that particular time-frame. For each novel, it exposes the male protagonist's struggles with social organisation to offer a valuable insight in the treatment and evolution of the masculine identity in Saul Bellow's early novels. Altogether, this thesis aims to develop connections between Saul Bellow's fiction and the historical challenges faced by American males in urban America.