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Both writers use their characters as a direct portrayal of the society and the countries in which they were born. Augie is the wanderer; lost going from country to country trying to find himself and a home. He represents the weak underclass that the statue of liberty stands for; liberty, equality and fraternity while Moll belongs to the social underclass of a different era and arguably a harder time. Being a woman her main objective is to survive the harsh patriarchal society in which she resides.
Augie’s main female influences are the tyrannical Grandma Lausch and quiet, shy mamma.
The juxtaposing emotions of love and pity for his mother and respect and fear for Lausch in his earlier years could be the basis of the way he treats women, showering them with love and affection one minute then leaving them suddenly. Augie also absorbs everything from his female friends, their love, their friendship and their money. Bellow may be making a witty comment about the American society in which Augie lives; their consumerism and insatiability for Grandma Lausch’s lack of affection seems to have hardened the March boy’s but Augie’s Born recruit” personality always shines through.
In the first chapter Saul Bellow is creating a family unit full of dysfunction and chaos. The first words said about Augie’s parents were “My own parents were not much to me, though I cared for my mother” This was the voice of so many fatherless children during The Depression again highlighting Augie’s role of portraying America.
Bellow uses this “Background Information” to build up Augie’s Character in the future; his inability to settle down may be explained by his lack of a father figure until Einhorn comes along.
This is clearly to excuse or explain Augie’s behaviour in the future. The reader is therefore compassionate towards Augie since he is essentially motherless and fatherless. This is a direct comment on American society; Bellow wants the reader to see Augie’s vulnerability later on in the book alongside his arrogance. He is the epitome of America. Homeless and wandering. Saul Bellow’s female characters have very strong personalities especially those Augie becomes most attached to Mimi Villiars, the independent young woman who relies heavily on others but appears to be independent.
Augie’s first sexual experience with a woman is an old prostitute in a brothel frequented by Einhorn. Bellow gives the impression of pity for Augie using his inexperience to portray the emotions of the characters around him. The fact that the prostitute has bee already chosen for him is a representation of the decisions that have been and will be made for Augie by other people. This idea is recurrent throughout the book. Augie constantly refers to the prostitute as “She” and is very impersonal even though she encouraged him to act like a couple with her.
This shows his awkwardness and the fact that hed’ rather not be in this situation, highlighting his inexperience at this time. This event is starkly different to that of Molls first encounter with men. Defoe seems to be including much more emotion but the harsh reality of the social hierarchy is always obvious to the reader. Defoe uses Moll herself to point out that she would have slept with her lover as soon as he offered her money. This is a pivotal point in the novel because it alludes to Moll’s future. Though both Authors are writing about very different times the parallel theme in both novels seems to be money.
Moll clearly marries for money and Augie depends on other peoples. Though it does not seem like it at first Bellow’s intentions become clear after significantly rich people continuously become interested in Augie. First there is Einhorn who though not welcoming Augie into his family treats him as a kind of Apprentice, nurturing him in the way of business. But more notably Mrs Renling and Thea; they both support Augie, Mrs Renling assisting him with his social climbing and Thea with discovering life. Bellows uses these characters to open Augie up.
He matures with both women learning social hierarchy when on vacation with Mrs Renling. Ironically it is here Augie meets Thea. Bellow uses one woman as a vehicle to guide Augie to another whereas Defoe keeps all Moll’s love interests separate. The two authors portray marriage in entirely different ways; whilst Moll rushed into marriages Augie takes a much more relaxed attitude to it. Defoe portrays this sense of urgency in the pace of the sections leading up to an engagement or a marriage. In the scene with Molls third future husband Moll halts the poetry on the glass.
The actual poetry was swift and precise getting straight to the point on Molls intentions quickly. Defoe uses the poetic device of rhyming couplets to portray this motion and intertwining of the two themes of love and money. “You I love and you alone… … And so in Love says every one… … Virtue alone is an Estate… … But Money’s Virtue; Gold is Fate… ” Here The reader senses Moll’s urgency but also the young gentlemen’s virtue. This may cause hostility towards Moll amongst the readers but some may say her stark truth is an asset to her and is a sign of her change in character.
On the contrary to this Bellow protagonist has a much more relaxed attitude to marriage when it has been offered to him there has always been a third party. Even at the beginning with Augie’s betrothal to his cousin he is lead into situations. It is only at the end of his maturing period that Augie considering marriage with Thea. This is inconceivable to her and probably to him also. Bellow is using this relationship to portray the plight of America at the time, accepting the unwanted and miscellany of emotions and people.
Augie is Bellow’s personification of America, his travels and discoveries, his charms and intrigue to the rich and powerful. This is especially portrayed in his attitude to women; he eats them up the spews them out, like America does with the poor underclass of her society. Defoe also uses Moll’s relationships to portray England at the time, loud, dangerous and immoral. This was how he saw it and that was how his protagonist was to see it in the end. She started off a fighting young girl but was soon weakened by the powerful classes.
Defoe states that the book has a clear moral tale and it is not clearly for pleasure. It is noteworthy that Moll gives up her children quite readily or with little hesitation showing she doesn’t build relationships with them knowing that she may have to leave them behind. Moll says of her first children “My children were indeed taken happily off my hands by my husbands Father and Mother… ” The tone Defoe adopts here is very dismissive and the reader gets the impression that Moll is erasing the children from her life.
This is a direct reaction to the society around her and the life she must lead. A lot of children just fade out of the picture and are never heard of again; these are presumed dead or left behind but from Moll’s silence it is taken that she does not care much about the. This also reflects on her relationships with men and the reader sees that Moll keeps a certain distance between herself and them showing her lack of faith in men. This may provoke mistrust toward Moll but more toward the male characters especially since Molls first encounter was so hurtful and sympathy for Moll.
With this Defoe is informing the reader of society’s detachment from human emotion. It must be taken into consideration that the time that Defoe was writing in was not a Matriarchal one but Defoe recognises the power of women and their obvious allure and Moll is the personification of this. One of Moll’s only successful relationships is with her own brother. Her Daniel Defoe is trying to show the reader the injustice and corruption of society and how it cripples the innocent who is in this case Molls fianci??.
Moll clearly states For my mother’s Opinion was that I should bury the whole thing entirely, and continue to live with him as my Husband” The reader can appreciate a number of things here. Firstly the gender division of the society is clear because Moll goes to her mother, a woman much like herself. There is also a cynical but rather contrary tone to this scene because Molls mother is supposed to be a reformed woman. Alternatively it may be a ” be sure your sins will find you out” scenario bearing in mind Defoe has kept Molls mother a mystery, running away from her past instead of facing it as Moll does.
This could be read as a direct comment on Moll’s life and her refusal to “Bury” everything is a sign of her pure heart. Defoe’s protagonist is good woman and does have Morals. Defoe also depicts Moll’s love for her husband here; she did not deceive him that she was a rich woman and she will not deceive him about her true identity. Defoe uses this relationship to bring out the best characteristics in Moll so the reader begins to open their hearts to her Though Bellow does not portray Augie’s relationships particularly as failures there is always a sense that the relationships would end.
Bellow uses Augie to point out his own inadequacies when he says “… I didn’t love her as I ought to have… I should have been more pure and stayed with it” Here the reader gets the impressions that Bellow is pointing out the wrongs of the New World through Augie. His love affair with Thea represents the relationship of America and her new people. Augie then says “There was something wrong with me” Defoe uses a very short sentence at the end of the paragraph, which gives the reader a feeling of bereavement for the relationship.
This is also echoed in the fact that Augie blames himself for everything as one grieving a loved one. Bellows use of travel in the novel plays a major role in the establishment of Augie’s relationships. Augie romanticises about Mexico and Europe treating them as lovers. In chapter eighteen Augie links the night with Stella in Mexico to one on a ship from Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona. This association with another girl and another country underlines Bellow connection of countries and women. It is also interesting to note that both countries are Hispanic suggesting both passion and mysticism.
Also the fact that both countries mentioned here are poorer than America, represented by Augie suggests Augie’s power over these women, or, more cynically his desire for power. The fact that the people were “Humble people, labourers in denim jumpers… old people on the deck cargo-like dead, or musing” Here Bellows is allowing the reader to see where Augie places himself in the society. Bellows distances Augie from the rest of the crowd with the use of observation. Augie does not associate himself with these people but finds companionship with another American.
Though this extract is very memory of the is minute one is allowed into the mind of the protagonist and it is realised that he is not only proud of his American nationality but feels it is almost better than that of another country. Defoe reunites Moll with her Highwayman husband at the end of the novel finalising Molls life as that of a happy one. Moll truly did love him and it was her happiest if shortest marriage. Defoe purposely chooses this man for Moll to settle down with because not only is he a gentleman but he is a criminal also.
Defoe’s moral is that society can change and Moll and her husband are prime examples of that. Defoe portrays Moll and her husband as Adam and Eve. They start again purified by love and the threat of death. In this section the reader is to be satisfied with Moll’s piety by her going to see her old Virginia family. Moll is confronting her past as she did with her husband. Bellow also has Augie meet his past; he goes back to Chicago and sees characters from his and also meets his brother again. But Augie does not end with a marriage but with another adventure, in France with another woman, Jacqueline.
Bellows finalises the fact that Augie needs to travel, that in trying to find himself he has found his purpose. He says, “I am a sort of Columbus” he also excuses his inadequacies with this stating “I may well be a flop… Columbus too thought he was a flop, probably when they sent him back in chains. Which didn’t prove there was no America” Here Bellow is telling the reader several things; Augie thinks he is superior to others, which explains his attitude to the women throughout his life. The reader sees Augie’s reason for travelling the world, to discover it for himself.
The fact that Bellows uses a double negative “… didn’t prove… no America” leaves it open to the reader’s speculation. He doesn’t says there is or there isn’t an America but leaves it as a questions. This indicates to us that Augie will still be travelling but he is happy doing so regardless of societies opinion of him. This excerpt also impels Augie to greatness with the comparison of his failure with Columbus’ life. This gives the reader a sense that Augie is a wronged man, someone misunderstood but with a higher purpose.
Bellow ends it here to cancel all the negative sentiment to his protagonist, leaving him exalted. This idea of greatness is in the first chapters of the book also when referring to Einhorn and to his brother but Augie doesn’t once use such language to describe his female friends, only entertaining the idea with Grandma Lausch. This may be intentional on Bellows’ part but the period of the novel must also be remembered. Bellows was writing in the early twentieth century when intolerances were still around. Women were still not considered “Great” and Augie’s ideas are a perfect example of this, even with the fiery Thea.
Both Authors write to convey their message using their protagonists’ idiosyncrasies as vehicles of their cause but in totally different ways. Whilst Defoe portrays Moll’s will to survive and want of an easy life driving her into the arms of different men and blames the system so to speak for her wrongs, Bellow portrays Augie as something out of a Hollywood movie; women quickly falling for him then him breaking their heart but all for a good cause. Both authors use the opposite gender to aide their characters in life. Only the idealistic Defoe ends with Moll settling down, but this may have to do with the period of the novel.
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