The feel of the Bellow’s More Die of Hearbreak is humorous but the view that it presents is pessimistic. This view seems to stem from the fact that the characters do not really understand themselves and/or their wants. As a result, they expect things that they have no business expecting or assuming and they end up disappointed. Uncle Benn constantly gets involved in relationships that are wrong for him because he doesn’t understand himself or his women. On one hand, he wants the permanence of marriage and on the other he wants freedom. For some reason, these two concepts are in opposition to each other in his view. But if he would evaluate who he is and who the woman is and whether they are actually right for each other for right reasons (friendship primarily) then being with that person would represent the ultimate freedom. The woman would accept him for who he is and he would accept her for who she is.
Come to think of it, perhaps the novel isn’t so much pessimistic about relationships as a whole but instead pessimistic about relationships that are poorly constructed. It’s like looking at a house with a bad foundation and awful construction and saying that all houses are therefore uninhabitable.
How would you characterize Bellow’s sense of humanity? What standards does he implicitly appeal to?
The standards of humanity that Bellow seems to appeal to are freedom and individualism. The relationships are dysfunctional but realistic and the dynamics that exist in these relationships are representative of the dynamics that exist among people in the world in general. It is difficult to tell whether it was any different in any other time because the stigma of divorce gave society the illusion that marriages were happy just because people were still married.
This novel shows that with freedom comes a lot of responsibility, responsibility that few people are willing and capable of undertaking. We live in an impulsive society where we are encouraged to “put it all on the line” for a chance at the so-called American dream. That’s why people gamble it at all on businesses they have no business starting, relationships that are all wrong for them from the start, investments they don’t know a first thing about, etc. This impulsiveness is to a large degree encouraged by the myth of “the self-made man” but the truth (and anyone who lives in LA long enough learns this) is that it takes 10 to 15 years to become an overnight success. Impulsiveness is unpredictable because it is based on luck. While dedication and diligence pay off eventually in dividends because they are based on loving one’s life, career, wife, etc.
It appears to me that what this novel implicitly shows that impulsiveness leads to worse decision making, more anxiety, and more discontent with one’s life. And that real freedom comes from dedication, diligence, and a quiet but persistent work ethic (Uncle Benn’s career as a botanist/researcher is a case in point).