Self Discovery in Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain KingHave you ever felt like a complete social out cast? Some one who has trouble fitting in and has never quite found their true calling. Being shunned by those closest to him and being unaccepted by society, the character in this novel is a perfect example. Saul Bellow’s character Eugene Henderson, in, Henderson the Rain King, (1959), is a man who struggles to change his ways and find out his true calling.
In this novel, a 55-year old man, tries to get through a mid-life crisis. The millionaire decides to go to Africa in an attempt to find himself. He meets two tribes while there. The first one he nearly destroys in an attempt to rid their watering hole of frogs. The next tribe helps Henderson the most on his quest. He unknowingly participates in a ritual to bring rain to the tribe, the success of which leads to his acclamation as Sungo, or Rain King. This experience with the tribe helps him to realize that his true destiny is as a healer. He returns back to America, planning to enter medical school.
Eugene Henderson starts off the book as a unpredictable man, with little conscious to guide him. It seems as though he almost intentionally hurts those closest to him. After telling his wife that he has had enough of everything, and that he was going to “blow his brains out,” he explains that this hurt his wife for more than one reason. Perhaps the most apparent reason was that “Her father had committed suicide in the same way, with a pistol (11).” Throwing tantrums like these, cause him to be very unlikable in the beginning of the novel.
Once he has arrived in Africa, you start to see a different side of him. Then after leaving the first tribe and staying with the second one for a while, his personality really begins to grow on you. He explains that, “At one time, much earlier in this life of mine, suffering had a certain spice (263).” I feel that this shows how he is growing as a person and being able to find out more about who he really is.
Towards the end of the novel, the change that has come over him becomes really apparent. After a conversation with the king, he says, “For his sake I accepted the discipline of being like a lion.