Dangling Man, Saul Bellow 1944

Bellow’s first novel, written at 29, tells the story of Joseph over a four month period in 1942-3.  We learn the details of this man’s biography little by little over the course of the book’s 190 pages—-born in Montreal, a Canadian citizen, 27 years old, married to Iva Olmstadt for five years, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in History, a tall, gangling good looking man with a mustache, a former employee of Inter-American Travel Agency, a younger brother of a successful businessman, and for seven months a victim of the Selective Service System.  He spends 10 hours/day in their single room apartment in a SRO building, contemplating, reading, getting depressed and angry, alienated from his old friends and his wife.  There are two interesting literary devices—a narrator who enters twice and two dialogues with an imaginary being the Tu As Raison Aussi.  Joseph’s torn between contrasting ideals—the colony of the spirit (the community) and the craters of the spirit (man’s basic evil nature), isolation and company, freedom and the lack of accountability from a system.  He concludes with ‘Long live regimentation” yielding his soul to be free of pain, suffering that he experienced with dangling freedom.