Literary Precedents for Henderson the Rain King

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An element central to Bellow's humor in Henderson the Rain King involves a subtle balance between allusion and parody. As many observers have suggested, the military disposition, the insistence on going to Africa, the claim to a soldier's honor, and even the protagonist's initials suggest that to some degree Bellow is evoking the image of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway, one of the major writers of the generation preceding Bellow's, liked to write about existential confrontations in which the hero (always male) finds his meaning by acting courageously, with his integrity intact despite the overwhelming odds fate stacks against him.

Writing in MidAmerica (1988), scholar David Anderson points out several other parallels between Hemingway's final African safari, in 1953, which attracted worldwide attention because of an airplane crash in which Hemingway was feared lost, and incidents in Bellow's novel. One other episode may involve a direct allusion to Hemingway's work...

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This section contains 1,123 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Henderson the Rain King Study Guide
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