Lesson Plans Henderson the Rain King
Herzog also asks what the suffering of a cuckolded man is worth in relation to the collective sufferings of societies living in the shadow of Hiroshima and the Holocaust. As a former scholar of Romanticism, Herzog is compelled to weigh serious questions of culture and civilization. Thinking of the world wars, perhaps too of America's involvement in Vietnam and its battles over racism, Herzog wryly revises De Tocqueville's prediction that modern democracies would produce less crime but more private vice, to "less private crime, more collective crime.
It is a Romantic idea that finds eloquent expression in Blake, whose work is repeatedly invoked by Herzog. Crucial to the restoration of American culture, Herzog believes, is a condemnation of the "wasteland outlook. Eliot, Spengler, Heidegger, and other existentialist philosophers, Herzog laments the wasteland outlook as "the full crisis of dissolution In opposition to this philosophy, Herzog offers the wisdom of Blake: "Man liveth not by self alone but in his brother's face Each shall behold the Eternal Father and love and joy abound.
Pistol-wielding Herzog realizes, as he peers through Madeleine's bathroom window and sees his wife's lover bathing his own daughter, that the taking or the saving of life has meaning.
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He resists the temptations of immoralism, and through this act of moral will Herzog manages to regain his balance. That Herzog transcends his personal hurt while being charged at the police station is both ironic and deeply affecting. Now with a "tranquil fullness of heart" he can compose letters of a different character. He reaches out in love to join the human race, writing to his dead mother, to congratulate a colleague on a recent book, to Nietzsche to resolve his mixture of admiration and distrust, to God to affirm his will to live, and to himself, in which he rises to a state of rapture: "Something produces intensity, a holy feeling, as oranges produce orange, as grass green.
Herzog is primarily a novel of redemption.
For all of its innovative techniques and brilliant comedy, it tells one of the oldest of stories. Like the Divine Comedy or the dark night of the soul of St. John of the Cross, it progresses from darkness to light, from ignorance to enlightenment. Today it is still considered one of the greatest literary expressions of postwar America. Moby-Dick Character Biography. Tagged Discussion Guide. Read Between the Lines Discussion Guide. Gathering Blue Educator's Guide.
Henderson the Rain King Lesson Plans
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Using a family systems theory approach, we suggest that in order to properly understand Eugene Henderson, it is important to recognize how his family as a multigenerational network of relationships shaped his character, just as he, in turn, helped shape his family. A clue to the origin of Eugene's problems occurs in the passage quoted above.
In his lengthy catalog of burdens that includes "my parents, my wives, my girls, my children," it is significant that he unconsciously omits "my siblings. His two siblings are dead, leaving him at age sixteen the lone surviving child and, in his father's view, unqualified to carry on the illustrious tradition of his family that includes a great-grandfather who was Secretary of State, great uncles who were ambassadors to England and France, and a father who is a famous scholar and friend of William James and Henry Adams.
Henderson the Rain King Summary
Eugene's sister died in childbirth. His older brother, Dick, whom his father regarded as the son who would be equal to the task of enhancing the illustrious family's reputation, died trying to evade the police after a foolish prank. Dick, his father's favorite, died in a capricious acting out that is not typical of the firstborn high-achieving son, whom the father viewed as the "hero" who would bring more glory to the family.
Dick, a decorated war veteran and "the lion" of the family, behaves in this one instance as his younger brother will do repeatedly until middle age, and this atypical behavior of Dick results in his death. Dick's acting out can be construed as an instinctive rebellion against his father's expectation that he will assume the role of family hero, a dysfunctional role, according to family systems theorists, in which Dick must sacrifice individuality and independence in order to please his father.
The father, Willard Henderson, is devastated by Dick's death, and adolescent Eugene is made to feel that the family line has ended with Dick's drowning. Willard looks at Eugene and despairs. Apparently suffering from survivor guilt, Eugene copes with his brother's death by frantically absorbing himself in his job of dismantling old cars.
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No doubt because of intense guilt and grief, which trigger the defense mechanism of avoidance, Eugene does not attend his brother's funeral and instead goes to work on that terrible day. The death of a sibling typically has a profound impact on the individual's psyche, and in this instance Eugene's guilt is especially intense because of an unconscious death wish for his rival, who was clearly his father's favorite. When Eugene returns home at night, his distraught father curses him as the adolescent washes himself "in the back of the house under the garden hose The hose bubbled on my head while inside I was hotter than the cutting torch that I took to all those old death cars from the highway" An unknown error has occurred.
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