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Seize the Day Summary | Saul Bellow

Seize the Day Summary | Saul Bellow

Writer’s intro:

Saul Bellow (born Solomon Bellows; 10 June 1915–5 April 2005) was a Canadian-American writer. Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts for his literary work. Seize The Day summary is more important for the students of English literature. So, we have written the summary of Seize The Day.

Seize the Day Summary

Tommy Wilhelm is a man in his mid-forties who is staying temporarily at the Hotel Gloriana on New York City’s Upper West Side. His father has lived there for several years. He is out of place from the start because he lives in a hotel full of old retirees. Throughout the book, he is a figure of loneliness in a crowd. The novella talks about a very important day in Tommy Wilhelm’s life. This day is called his “day of reckoning.”

As the story starts, Tommy is going down in the hotel elevator, as he does every morning, on his way to meet his father for breakfast. But Tommy feels different this morning. He has a sense of fear and dreads about something that will happen in the hours ahead, something that has been building for a while. Through Tommy’s thoughts and a series of flashbacks, the reader starts to learn that Tommy just got fired from his job as a salesman, that he didn’t finish college, that he has two kids, that he and his wife just broke up, and that he is about to go broke.


Tommy just gave his last bit of money to the fake Dr. Tamkin, who promised to invest it wisely in the commodities market. He seems to have fallen in love with a woman named Olive, but he can’t marry her because his wife won’t let him get a divorce. Tommy is sad and needs help with both his emotions and his money.

In the first three chapters, the reader follows Tommy as he talks with his father, Dr. Adler, who thinks his son is a failure in every way. Tommy’s father won’t help him financially, and he also won’t help him emotionally or in any other way. These first chapters are also where the flashbacks start. The flashbacks show, among other things, Tommy’s first meeting with the dishonest talent scout Maurice Venice, who at first likes the young Tommy for his looks. Wilhelm is later turned down by the same talent scout after a bad screen test, but he still tries to become an actor in Hollywood. He stops going to college and moves to California, even though his parents told him not to.



The second part of Seize The Day summary

The next chapters are about Tommy’s meetings and conversations with Dr. Tamkin, a “psychologist” who seems fake and shady. Dr. Tamkin gives Tommy a lot of advice, which is what Tommy wanted from his father. People always ask us if Tamkin is a fake and questionable psychologist or if he is a liar and con man. Even so, Tommy likes Tamkin because he is very charming.

Dr. Tamkin says he is a poet, a healer, and a member of the Detroit Purple Gang, among other titles and positions. Even though he lies, he tells Tommy bits of truth that are important to the story and him. Also, Tommy gives Tamkin the last of his money to invest in the commodities market because Tamkin says he knows a lot about the stock market.

The rest of the novella is about how Tommy and Dr. Tamkin go to and from the stock market and meet different people along the way. The end of the book shows how much money Tommy lost on the goods in which Tamkin had invested his money. Tommy has lost all of his money, but he still needs to pay for his family’s needs. Also, Tamkin is no longer around. After trying to find Tamkin in his hotel room, the novella comes to an end with three climaxes: two small ones and one big one.


The third part of Seize The Day summary

First, there is the final confrontation with his father in the hotel massage room. As Tommy stands naked in front of his father, he is told one last time that he can’t help. After that, Tommy gets into a loud, almost hysterical fight with his wife over the phone. He says that he is “suffocating” and can’t “breathe.” Tommy walks out of the house and onto Broadway, where he thinks he sees Dr. Tamkin at a funeral. He yells for Tamkin, but he doesn’t answer.

Suddenly, a rush of people pulls him into the chapel where the funeral is taking place. Takaim gets lost in the crowd. Here is where the story’s final climax happens: when Tommy can’t get away from the dead body of a stranger and starts to cry and sob. He “cries with all his heart” and lets out huge amounts of emotion. This is the end of the book. People at the funeral don’t know who he is and wonder how close he was to the person who died. Even though the person who died was a stranger, Tommy is left in this “happy oblivion of tears.”



Characters list of Seize the Day summary

Tommy Wilhelm is the story’s main character. Tommy Wilhelm is 44 years old and is staying temporarily in New York City. He has left the country and moved to a hotel on the Upper West Side of New York City to ask his father for help. After he failed at acting, he had a lot of different jobs before landing a steady job in sales. But he was fired from his sales job, he and his father have a tense relationship, he and his wife are no longer together, he is in love with a woman he can’t marry, and he has put the last of his money into a joint investment that is sure to fail.

Dr. Adler, the father of Tommy Dr. Adler is a hard-to-please man who sticks to the rules of an earlier time. He is Jewish and an American. And he has worked hard all his life to become a well-known, successful, and respected doctor and/or “professor.” Dr. Adler won’t “carry” his kids on his back because he thinks they should do things on their own. He believes in the “Protestant work ethic” of the United States.



Dr. Tamkin

Dr. Tamkin is also a “friend” of Tommy’s and lives at the Hotel Gloriana. He is a shady and questionable person. He says he is many things and is always giving Tommy advice from a psychoanalyst. People question what he says, and most people seem to not trust him, but Tommy is attracted to him. Tommy makes a stock market investment with Tamkin, giving the old, Jewish, East-European doctor the last of his money.

Margaret is Tommy Wilhelm’s wife. Margaret and her husband have split up. Tommy is the only one who shows us what she looks like. We’re told that she’s cold and harsh and doesn’t care about other people. As the mother of Tommy’s two boys, she is very demanding of Wilhelm. For example, she is always asking for money. She won’t let Tommy get a divorce, which makes settlements hard. Margaret says that she will not make it “easy” for Tommy to leave. She is a character we never see in person. The only times we meet her are in Tommy’s memories. When Dr. Adler talks about her and when she talks to her husband on the phone.

Maurice Venice, the fake talent scout Tommy knew in the past, In the beginning, Maurice Venice was interested in Tommy as an actor. But we find out later that he is the “failure” of a family with a lot of power in the industry.

Olive, Tommy Wilhelm’s love interest We never met Olive.

Catherine is Tommy’s sister and Dr. Adler’s daughter. Catherine changed her name, too, to Philippa, just like Tommy did.

Mr. Rappaport: the old blind man at the stock market who can’t see his numbers and keeps asking for help. He is used as a metaphor for “blindness” in several chapters.

Mr. Perls, a breakfast companion of Dr. Adler

Theme: The dilemma of frustration, anxiety, tension, and hopelessness that modern man faces is the main theme of the novel.


This is the end of Seize the Day summary. You can read more summaries from English literature:

Pride and Prejudice

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