The protagonist and namesake of the novel, whose name Bellow borrowed from a minor character in James Joyce's Ulysses. Herzog is a womanizing, self-loathing, idealistic, and scholarly man in his mid-forties, enduring a difficult second divorce and a resulting depression. The story is told from inside of Moses' head; one might say the book is not so much about Herzog as it is Herzog.
Moses' first wife, Jewish and traditional. We come to understand that her fastidious and conservative nature was incompatible with Moses' chaotic personality; thus the marriage fell apart. Mother of Marco.
Moses' insane second wife, maniacally protective of her autonomy. Traumatized by her weak mother and abusive father, she demands more of Moses than he can give and subsequently ends the marriage. Mother of June.
Moses' best friend and only neighbor in Ludeyville. Crippled yet dashing, Valentine inspires Moses' resentment for his sociability. Has affair with Madeline and proves a better match for her than Moses.
Valentine's nurse-like and oblivious wife. Defends Valentine against Moses' accusations to the last.
The most important of all Moses' mistresses. Argentinian, beautiful and sexual, Ramona offers Moses oasis from his traumatic state.
Moses' daughter, loves Moses and Valentine simultaneously. Gives Moses reason to reclaim his identity as a father.
Moses' son, distant from his father and away at camp throughout the book. Moses feels that Marco blames him for his divorces.
Moses' father, bootlegger, failed at many things he attempted but appears to have worked hard. Threatened Moses with a gun toward the time of his death. Scolded by Aunt Zipporah.
Jewish mother, takes good care of her family and insists that they be educated.
Jonah's second wife, outlives Jonah in his old house, the "survivor." Slow and deliberate, contrasts with the rest of Moses' family.
Moses' other brother, also financially generous. Bails Moses out of jail at the end and worries for his sanity.
Moses' sister, never appears but is said to also worry for his sanity.
Jonah's sister, powerful, "militant," rough on Jonah.
Moses' childhood friend, with whom he stayed in Paris.
Moses' childhood friend; tells Moses about Madeleine's affair with Valentine.
Moses' psychiatrist who questions Moses' sanity. In self defense Moses accuses him of having a crush on Madeleine and siding with her. Considered Moses' enemy throughout the novel.
Moses' ex-divorce lawyer who gives ave Moses a place to stay after the divorce and grows furious with Moses' self pity. Direct and passionate; comforts Moses but also confronts him. Moses believes him to also side with Madeleine.
Moses' divorce lawyer through whom Moses intends to negotiate for custody of June. According to Moses, a "Reality Instructor."
Herzog Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Herzog is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Herzog is often called autobiographical, a claim not wanting in evidence. Bellow wrote the book in multiple locations, namely Puerto Rico, New York, and Chicago, while in the throes of a marital crisis. The crisis was rooted, to Bellow's...
Death is a concept with which Herzog struggles throughout the entire novel. He feels governed by death; bliss is, for Herzog, spoiled by its impermanence. He is haunted by the death of his mother, still feeling the need for a caretaker. This death...