Justify the title of the novel Seize the Day

Question: Justify the title of the novel Seize the Day.


The title is very significant for any literary work since it is closely related to the theme or themes. The title of the novel “Seize the Day” by Saul Bellow (1915-2005) is an allusion taken from the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” which means seize the day or enjoy the present and do not worry about the future. The title of the novel has been handled ironically with literary meaning as well.

The tendency for quick success

The title of the novel may have seemed that within a very short time success must be achieved but the Horatian phrase ‘carpe diem’ does not mean that fame and richness must be attained overnight. Rather it emphasizes that live for today making proper use of time not for tomorrow. The novelist also suggests that mistakes are the parts of life, but they must be recovered by seizing the day in an exact way.

“You can spend the entire second half of your life

recovering from the mistakes of the first half”.

Therefore, the tendency for quick success neglecting the present has been rejected by the title of the novel “Seize the Day” since mistakes could not be rectified overnight.

The protagonist’s bad decisions

Saul Bellow has the mastery to scatter the message that wrong evaluation of seizing the day makes one astray. The plot of the novel starts with a flashback in which Tommy Wilhelm recalls his lot of bad decisions that happened in the past years for which he is going through financial hardships and problems. Ten such decisions have made up the history of his life and one of such decisions is his persuasion after acting career being intentionally dropped out of college. He was then advised by his father to complete his education first of all, but he did not pay heed to his father’s advice and went to Hollywood having been trapped by fraud Maurice Venice. After spending seven years there in Hollywood, he was thoroughly rejected, and his collapse got started because of his wrong choice of ‘seizing the day’.

Manipulation and deception

As it is known that the title has been handled ironically with literary meaning, it has two-fold meanings. Two types of characters have been created to keep pace with their meanings. Dr. Tamkin manipulates and deceives the unconventional hero of the novel by dint of his philosophic explanation of seizing the day.

“The past is not good to us. The future is full of anxiety.

Only the present is real the here and now. Seize the day.”

These sentences are uttered by Tamkin when Wilhelm returns from his father losing all hopes of financial help. Now Wilhelm considers Tamkin to be a surrogate father who loots his last seven hundred dollars. Thus, the title symbolizes that manipulation and deception happen when someone gets obsessed with seizing the day without proper judgment.

American dream

The title of the novel indicates the American dream that is one of the themes of the novel. The ultimate American dream is being successful in life and becoming rich. Wall Street is the physical manifestation of the American dream where people gamble to take a shortcut in climbing the social ladder. Wilhelm loses his all possessions for such gambling, but Saul Bellow actually means to say through the character of Dr. Adler that works hard, dreams big.

Appreciation of present enjoyment only

The title relates to the appreciation of the present enjoyment only which is ironic. Natural bondage should be enhanced by the connection from hearts to hearts for the purpose of preserving kinship. Tommy Wilhelm has lost his kinship with his father, children, and wife for persuading happiness and richness. He also criticizes the Christian catholic church because of being unable to achieve his love affair with Olive.

“They don’t care about the individuals, their rules come first.”


Thus, the title is justified as it only focuses on seizing the day for solving the problems and persuading the dream reflecting the whole meaning of the novella.

S Ridoy Kumar
S Ridoy Kumar
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