Book Review: Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow

Henderson the Rain King - Wikipedia

Henderson, the hero, comes from a famous family. His ancestors are all famous in the political world. Henderson, 55, inherited an estate of $3 million, an astronomical figure at the time, and could have led a worldly life of material comfort, but the prim-life self-proclaimed drifter was never satisfied. In real life, he causes a lot of trouble. He acts rudely because he has a lot of resentment in his heart. His first wife was a good match for him, but he married only to please his father. He loved to raise pigs, but he made a mess of the industry and clashed with his neighbors. He had tried to distract or extinguish his inner voice with physical labor, but to no avail. Rudeness begets rudeness, and anger begets greater anger. Unable to see the meaning of life, he escaped from his original life and embarked on a journey on the African continent. After experiencing the adventures of the Arnevi tribe, Henderson realized the meaning of life, understood the value of human beings, and returned to America with new hopes for life.

Exhausted, Henderson left the United States and began to travel to the ideal land of Africa in order to return to the primitive state of carefree human beings. This trip to Africa is not so much a trip as a self-imposed exile. He had not bought a ticket for the return journey. He had brought almost nothing for use, and most importantly, it was an exile with no destination and no time limit which not only cleansed his mind, but also made him realize the essence of life and the return to his true self. His exile was the only way he could ward off anxiety and achieve his ultimate goal— a transcendent existence beyond time and space. In fact, Henderson the Rain King reflects an intellectual living in an affluent environment who voluntarily gives up urban life and goes to the wasteland to complete the process of spiritual self-redemption. Eugene Henderson the wealthy American experienced a transition from superiority to perplexity, wealth to poverty, boredom to spiritual sublimation in his dealings with the natives.

-Coreen C.

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