Justify the title of the novel Seize the Day

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Seize the Day is a notable literary work by Saul Bellow. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Seize the Day.


Justify the title of the novel Seize the Day.

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

The tendency for quick success: The novel’s title may seem that success must be achieved quickly, but the Horatian phrase ‘Carpe Diem does not mean that fame and richness must be attained overnight. Instead, it emphasizes that we live for today, making proper use of time, not for tomorrow. The novelist also suggests that mistakes are parts of life but must be recovered by seizing the day.

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.

Protagonist’s bad decisions: Saul Bellow has the mastery to spread the message that the wrong evaluation of seizing the day makes one astray. The novel’s plot starts with a flashback in which Tommy Wilhelm recalls the many 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 an acting career intentionally dropped out from college. His father advised him to complete his education first, but he did not heed his father’s advice and went to Hollywood, having been trapped by fraud Maurice Venice. After spending seven years in Hollywood, he was thoroughly rejected, and his collapse 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. Wilhelm considers Tamkin a surrogate father who loots his last seven hundred dollars. Thus, the title symbolizes manipulation and deception when someone is obsessed with seizing the day without proper judgment.

American Dream: The novel’s title indicates the American Dream, one of the novel’s themes. 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 all his possessions for such gambling, but Saul Bellow means to say through the character of Dr. Adler that he works hard and 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 heart to heart 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 to solve the problems and persuading the dream, reflecting the whole meaning of the novella.