Book Review: The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March: One Book, One Chicago Fall 2011 ...

The Adventures of Augie March tells the story of Augie’s life from 1920s to 1940s. Augie worked as a newspaper boy, a handyman in the army, a sailor in the merchant ship, went to Mexico to seek opportunities. Even as a thief in the drifting years he threw himself into a new line of work and suffered all kinds of indecent treatment. As Augie grows into adulthood, he discovers that society is a tangled web of absurdities from ideals to reality. He felt that he was in a vaguely hostile world full of constraints surrounded by people who wanted to influence and change him, all trying to shape Augie into the person they wanted him to be. Along with his girlfriend Thea, Augie sets off on a journey to Mexico, but the failure of hawk training, physical damage, and his girlfriend’s betrayal make his dream come to nothing. The trip to Mexico not only left Augie severely injured physically, but also plunged his spirit into a pain that could not be healed. Emotionally, Augie becomes a loner, living in a world of opposition and disappointment. All this makes him seem like a marginal man who has been randomly thrown into the world, abandoned and helpless. The world was nothing to him now.

The Adventures of Augie March shows the mottled spirit and soul of modern Americans, vividly presenting the American social condition. In the absurd society, everything is quite different from Augie’s wish — an individual person is ignored, people’s desire is suppressed, and people’s life is devalued. But Augie refused to be controlled and refused to change. So again and again he had to confront the powerful reality of escape and face this meaningless world alone. Life is an endless process of discovery until it reaches death. As long as a person’s life does not come to an end, the accumulation of its essence will not be completed, the spiritual journey will not end, and the process of free choice will continue. Augie’s double journey, both physical and spiritual, as well as his pursuit of meaning of life all emphasize the free choice of human beings. This reflects the essence of existentialist philosophy: man is free in this world, and so is his choice of action. This freedom gives one the right to choose and act in the face of the absurd world. Therefore, people should realize the importance of free choice, dare to make free choice, and create their own meaning of existence through actions.

-Coreen C.

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