Urbanization in ‘Mr. Sammler’s Planet’

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Mr. Sammler’s Planet was written by Saul Bellow in 1970. According to biography.com, Saul Bellow was a Canadian who moved to Chicago in the 1920s. His works are commonly related to analyzing the modern culture of his time. After he returned from being a marine in World War II, Bellow felt disconnected from society and this shows through his many award-winning novels. It is important to know who the author, Saul Bellow is when reading Mr. Sammler’s Planet because many of the ideas and the main character, Mr. Artur Sammler are created from Bellows personal life. Mr. Sammler’s Planet is a philosophical read that questions the reader to think about society in the big city and the values of the people who live there.

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The novel begins with Mr. Artur Sammler, a Polish Holocaust survivor living in New York City. He is an isolated man who has lost sight in one of his eyes due to being struck with a gun butt. Mr. Sammler is captivated by a pick pocket that he watches everyday on the bus and participates in a lecture at Columbia University that did not go the way he wished. To say the least, Sammler is a pessimistic man. He is old and isolated from society. He views his daughter as “his only contribution to the continuation of the species!’ (Bellow p.116) While viewing the world and the people in it with a critical eye, the man muses over current events and analyzes them with his historical and philosophical knowledge. He notes that society has ruined our planet multiple times throughout the novel. Many of the changes he brings up are due to the rapid growth of urbanization happening around him.

Sammler is more of a thinker than he is a man of action. He holds in his thoughts of society and is conflicted with the ideas of acting on what he sees or remaining a bystander. This is showed early on when Mr. Sammler sees the pickpocket and tries to call the police. Sammler knows that there are things that are permitted to be spoken aloud and then there are thoughts that are too impolite to be heard. Besides that, another thing that is brought up often within the novel is the moon landing. The setting of novel is not only New York, but New York in the excitement of the summer of the moon landing. It’s seen as a new potential for life outside of Earth. Mr. Sammler believes that all of this is absurd and is an attempt of escape from the problems that have been created by humans here. Mr. Sammler is ready for the death of the world, perhaps because of the horrific acts he has witnessed in his past. In the novel it says “Like many people who had seen the world collapse once, Mr. Sammler entertained the possibility that it might collapse twice” (Bellow 33). Mr. Sammler looks at what society has transformed into. He’s seen the darkest parts of humanity and now it’s all that clouds his vision. Humanity, along with modernism is not a positive in his eye, but something that is likely to come due to the people surrounding him who are crazed with all of the possibilities of the future that they see before them. Sammler believes that this attitude, the one that promotes luxury has only led humanity to greater issues. Luxury and materialistic values, encouraged by urbanization only leads to more struggles within society.

Mr. Sammler’s Planet is a novel only spanning a few days in a life of a man, preparing for the death of his relative Elya Gruner. Mr. Sammler is a man who has removed himself from society internally, but is still physically living in the midst of it. At times, he makes death seem more like the prize and survival, more like a burden. He doesn’t like to consider himself a survivor of the Holocaust, but instead says ‘It wasn’t surviving, it was only lasting’ (Bellow p. 91). He is doing his best to comprehend the world and the people around him. Even though the ones around him are losing their Jewish traditions in place of their urban New York ones. In its most basic summary, this novel is about man’s interactions with a society who has been urbanized around him. At the end of the novel, Mr. Sammler finds compassion towards the people around him. Sammler begins to mention God near the end amidst his philosophical musings. At one point in the novel he says that he enjoys reading the bible, but does not believe in it. Thinking of the bible leads him to think of the progression of man. He separates him from his own species, who has organized the planet in such a detailed way. He summarizes that some people are working and some people are sleeping “And that is how this brilliant human race runs this wheeling globe” (Bellow 254). He concludes the novel by speaking to God, saying ‘For that is the truth of it – that we all know, God, that we know, that we know, we know, we know” (Bellow 313). Urbanization is all around Mr. Sammler and it is the base of all of the issues he finds in society.

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Urbanization In 'Mr. Sammler’s Planet'. (2021, Mar 18). Retrieved November 27, 2022 , from
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