Patrick's Reviews > The Victim

The Victim by Saul Bellow
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's review
May 15, 2011

liked it

** spoiler alert ** I really like this book because it blends internal paranoia with general questions about life.

The book is about a Jewish newspaper man who is suffering from persecutional delusions that occurs when a person is stressed and is prone to wanting everyone to like him. The stressor seems to be that his wife is gone on an extended period but he suddenly feels guilty for things which he should not feel guilty about. For example,his nephew dies and suddenly he feels guilty about it though he reasons that he should not. Another theme, is an acquaintance of his claims that he is the reason for the acquaintance losing a job and having his life spiral out of control. Although he initially laments the accusation against him, he finally acquiesces to his guilty conscience. Because he feels this enormous guilt, he thinks that everyone around him is persecuting him for "the bad things he has done," thus, he becomes paranoid that he is persecuted which in the end becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The interesting thing about this book is there is a level of truth to his feeling of persecution, the difference of course is where a normal person might shake off this feeling, he internalizes and gives this feeling strength out of proportion to the actual event. As someone who actually experience this uncomfortable feeling, I can empathize with the character although I do think the response to his guilt was excessive.

Another theme of the book that ties in to his feeling persecution, is the feeling of persecution of American Jews in the past as well as currently other Minority-Americans of today. Although less and less common, minorities of the recent past were seen by Americans as not truly American enough based largely on the way they look although perhaps the differing minority heritage plays a roll in it too.

Another theme is the role of welfare system in this country. In the book, the white bum who is blaming the main character for his falls seem to echo liberals blaming society for the ills of the individual. Even though no doubt society has a role in making sure everyone is a productive member of that society, it is up to the individual to make it happen with what tools society offers him.

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