Saul Bellow’s Attitudes to the American “Counterculture” of the 1960s
The American “counter-culture” in the 1960s had its unique cultural value. Behind all these radical anti-traditional cultural behaviors, there is a certain positive meaning of cultural liberation, and at the same time, it also brings some lingering negative effects . In the book “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”, the author Saul Bellow uses Mr. Sammler as the megaphone to express his multiple attitudes and thoughts on American culture in the 1960s. At present, there is still some urgently needed space for research on similar topics at home and abroad. Based on this, the project team studied “Mr. Sammler’s Planet” and a large number of relevant authoritative materials, and studied Saul Bellow himself and his other Works, and finally a series of theoretical results.
1. The “counter-culture” of social anomie and disintegration of beliefs
American culture in the 1960s left a strong mark in American history. In the first half of the 1960s, the black affirmative movement was on the rise, and the individualism that died out in the 1950s re-expanded. Cynical young people express their dissatisfaction and hope to the society in their unique ways, either radically or tortuously. This crazy “counter-culture” wave swept across the entire American society at that time, bringing fresh ideas and propositions to the world at that time, and at the same time impacting the traditional value system, causing a series of problems of social anomie and disintegration of beliefs. In this “counter-cultural movement”, a group of eccentric hippies emerged, who pointed their negative and decadent criticism at the whole traditional society. Hippies tried to resist mainstream values in extreme ways such as “sensual satisfaction, return of humanity and anarchic lifestyle” to achieve self-liberation and individual freedom. The “sexual liberation” movement advocated by the hippies has aroused strong repercussions throughout Western society; it is accompanied by the proliferation of drugs and material enjoyment. Excessive freedom has disintegrated people’s moral bottom line, violent crimes have become commonplace, and the legal system is lingering in this “storm”.
”Mr. Sammler’s Planet” is based on this background. By narrating the grotesque events experienced by the protagonist Art Sammler within three days, it reflects the Polish Jew’s insight and philosophy on the social status quo at that time. think. After experiencing massacres in World War II, losing his beloved wife, and narrowly escaping from caves and dead people, the one-eyed old man suddenly fell into a “primitive world” that advocated “freedom, fraternity, equality, and adultery.” Old Sammler was isolated from this “new” world, trying to rebuild his broken beliefs with normal reason, looking for the possibility of repairing the planet. The whole book begins with Mr. Sammler witnessing black pickpockets stealing, and the opening chapter presents a crisis picture of “corruption” and “savageness” in New York City. Then Sammler experienced a series of crazy and morbid disintegration of order: he was threatened by a black pickpocket showing his genitals; he was satirically attacked by young students when he attended a speech; Old Sammler is not only a witness to crazy events, but also a container of these crazy factors. The eccentric human beings do not shy away from revealing their crazy behavior to Sammler: the nagging old man Brook is infatuated with women’s arms, crying about his obsession; In order to excavate his father’s so-called property, Wallace caused the water pipe to burst and the house to be flooded. He also confessed to Sammler that he had “revolutionary ideas” to “break out of the future his father arranged for him”. In addition to recording the current predicament and tragedy, Sammler is deeply concerned about the fate of mankind, has unique insights into history and the future, and at the same time strongly calls for the return of moral order.
While the shared Jewishness and experience of war can be seen in both Mr. Sammler and Saul Bellow, it would be irresponsible to simply equate the two, nor to ignore the implied authorship of the books. The difference with writer Saul Bellow. In fact, however, it is difficult to separate the writer from the implied author. Literary theorist Shen Dan pointed out that “implied author” is a relative concept, which comes from the text, and readers construct the image of the author in the expression of the work itself . To a certain extent, Sammler is a “reliable narrator”, that is, the ideology and value judgment of the narrator are almost the same as those of the implied author. Therefore, Bellow’s Mr. Sammler can be regarded as the mouthpiece of his views for the time being. As a witness and bystander of the “counter-cultural movement”, Bellow’s multiple and unique attitudes are of profound significance and enlightenment.
2. Saul Bellow’s Multiple Attitudes
With Mr. Sammler as the mouthpiece, “Mr. Sammler’s Planet” embodies Saul Bellow’s thinking about the living conditions of human beings and his exploration of the way out of destiny, and thus people can get a glimpse of Bellow’s attitude towards life to some extent. The multiple attitudes of the American “counterculture” phenomenon in the 1960s, namely deep concern, alienation, disapproval and critical attack, and still hope.
(1) Deep concern
It is true that Saul Bellow criticized the violence, materialistic desires, sexual madness and moral collapse in the American society in the 1960s in a serious and serious style. The expectation and deep love of society and human civilization. While showing the chaotic American landscape, Bellow expresses the desire to reconstruct traditional values and moral values and the deep humanistic care that will never be abandoned through the thoughts and words of the protagonist . His Sammler looks on coldly at the madness sweeping the Western world and “the laziness, stupidity, shallowness, confusion, greed, and disorder that are now justified”, but does not succumb to nihilism, nor Never give up the exploration of the way out to solve the current human spiritual dilemma. Bellow’s attack on the chaotic phenomenon of moral disintegration at that time was in the so-called “deep love, deep responsibility” style, and he expressed his regret and enthusiasm in the criticism. In other words, the purpose of criticism is definitely not criticism itself, but to seek the possibility of repairing the earth and rebuilding human civilization. He is not desperate for this earth, for the human beings living on this planet. Escaping from Earth and flying to the moon was not an option for him. When talking about the status quo and future of human destiny, he firmly believes in the power of humanity, civilization and traditional values, and this is the reason why Sammler chose to “stay on earth”. Bellow’s attention to the overall existence and destiny of human beings and his discussion of spiritual dilemmas fully reflect his deep humanistic care and his expectation of reshaping Western civilization.
(2) Alienation, disapproval and criticism
1. Alienation and disapproval
On the subjective side, Saul Bellow’s disapproval of the American “counterculture” in the 1960s was mainly due to his traditional moral cognition and social The status quo is far from it. From Mr. Sammler’s perspective, his long-term understanding and recognition of traditional social morality made him unable to accept the “invasion” of his thoughts by “counter-culture” in a short period of time. Due to his stereotyped attitude, Mr. Sammler has a habitual lock-in and rejection of new things and new ideas. However, some of the traditional moral concepts and values he upholds are not in harmony with the open concept popular among young people in the 1960s, and it can even be said to run counter to it. development of countercultural attitudes.
In fact, the attitude of disapproval is mainly due to the fact that the difference between traditional culture and “counter culture” and the rapid change are beyond Bellow’s expectation, and only the youth group can keep up with the sweeping of “counter culture”. Take the incoming wave and become the main force leading the wave. And Bellow himself, who took Mr. Sammler as the mouthpiece, could neither understand and respond to the emerging culture in a timely manner. At the same time, his inherent cognition and traditional values also made him feel at a loss for the arrival of this wave. , It is even easy to have a preconceived rejection psychology from the beginning of understanding.
To sum up the subjective and objective reasons mentioned above, Mr. Sammler’s personal experience and the cultural environment in which he lived changed rapidly and greatly influenced the formation of his multiple attitudes.
2. Criticism and
criticism Bellow has a critical attitude towards some other social phenomena that come along with the “counter-culture”, and even criticizes them violently. It is specifically manifested in three aspects in the book “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”, namely the rampant violence, material greed and sexual liberation movement.
The rampant violence is first concentrated on the image of the black pickpocket. The black pickpocket dressed in noble clothes was stealing on the bus. After being discovered by Mr. Sammler, he cornered Mr. Sammler and showed him his genitals. For Mr. Wang, it is undoubtedly a condescending show off or even a rough provocation and direct demonstration. Every move of the black man has a sense of power superior to Sammler and a sense of masculine power superior to Sammler. His transformation from being stared at to actively showing his penis in front of Sammler is just like the transformation of black people from being discriminated against and being bullied. From disenfranchising the right to speak, to breaking apart apartheid and making your voice heard through the civil rights movement. Under this silent but suffocating demonstration, Mr. Sammler was not only stimulated visually, but also accompanied by the anti-gaze protest behavior of the black pickpocket who changed his previous image, which had a profound impact on Sammler on the conceptual level. Le produced a huge impact . At the same time, there are also descriptions in the book about the police who turned a blind eye to street violence and even promoted the intensification of conflicts, and the young people who spoke ill of Mr. Sammler. The attitude of “culture” has gradually become clear, and its critical position has gradually become firm.
Material greed was chiefly manifested in Mr. Sammler’s relatives. His great-nephew Wallace brought up his dissatisfaction with his father Gruner and his desire to get his father’s savings to develop his career. He even wanted to break the water pipe to get that money; and his daughter Sula He even stole Dr. Lal’s manuscripts twice and hid them. The evaluation of their behavior, in the words of the original text, “this is also a contemporary characteristic – lawlessness”. Avarice and vulgarity are justified—turning upside down what was once respected.
As for the liberation of sex, it can be seen from the social life of Sura and Wallace, the representatives of the younger generation. In the novel, when talking about the bohemianity of the new generation of women, Mr. Sammler bluntly said that “when they loathe authority, they are unwilling to respect anyone, not even themselves” . In Mr. Sammler’s conversation with Wallace’s father, Mr. Sammler mentions that Sulla “saw a woman messing with too many men in too many ways… her eyes were all over the place”, Wallace even played with the stenographer’s breasts while working at the firm he supported at home.
Facing the era environment full of violence, greed and sex, Bellow’s traditional values were impacted by these behaviors of those around him. Strong personal emotions.
hopeful It is a “you open a door inlaid with jewels, and when you go out, you are exposed to corruption and degeneration, from the luxury and luxury of highly civilized Byzantium to the state of savagery in one fell swoop. Entering the bizarre barbarian world erupting from the ground”, when the society was facing spiritual degradation and humanitarian crisis, the Indian scientist Dr. Lal had lost confidence in the only homeland of mankind, and “loathed the earth.” , pinned his hopes on the moon, and advocated “starting out and sailing to the moon in a human aircraft”; and although Mr. Sammler criticized and satirized this world full of violence, chaos, and corruption, he did not comment on it. With a negative attitude, he believes that there is still room for saving human beings, and the possibility of repairing the earth. Saul Bellow used Sammler to express his hope for the reconstruction of human civilization and the hope of saving an anomie society.
Mr. Sammler questioned the “real situation” that Dr. Lal said that “human beings are eating themselves”, and believed that “human beings have an instinct not to jump into the kingdom of death”, and human beings have more Or the desire to live rather than die, and “man cannot end himself except by a general act of self-destruction”. It can be seen from this that Bellow still has hope for human beings on the earth, believing that they will not wait to accept the “last explosion” of the “kingdom of death” based on “a moral concept of will to live”, and is convinced that they will not destroy themselves; and even in the midst of anomie and fanaticism, there is still a group of people, “They take the bus to the factory; they set up shop; they sweep; they bandage; they wash; they install; they tend; they count; they Working on a computer. Every day, every night. And, no matter how agitated, terrified, or exhausted, they go to work, take elevators up and down, sit down at their desks, sit down. Behind the steering wheel, operating the machine” . In the chaos, they come out to find jobs, they take responsibility, they respect order, and they are the hope of rebuilding human civilization. Human beings can still be saved, and our planet still has the possibility of restoration.
This may be the reason why Mr. Sammler is unwilling to escape from the earth and go to the moon. It is not the planet that restricts human development, but human beings themselves. He is just waiting for an opportunity, “When we have an earth full of saints, And when we focus on the moon, we can board the space machine and fly to the sky…”  He is waiting for the earth to be “full of saints”, which means that when human beings are no longer crazy, no longer No matter how extreme it is, when the “ceiling” of society is rebuilt, the “Moon Plan” can be implemented. This is also Bellow’s hope. He hopes that fanatical and stupid human beings can wake up, and that the chaotic and anomie society can be saved.