Saul Bellow’s Response to Nietzsche’s Ideas on Nihilism in The Victim

Sima Farshid, Mohsen Movahhedi Zad


This paper intends to expound Saul Bellow’s response to Nietzsche’s ideas on nihilism. The latter contends that the life-denying morality of Christianity has ultimately resulted in modern nihilism to solve which he propounds “active nihilism”. While “passive nihilism”, he argues, has darkened human life, the active one can save modern human, because it enables them to go beyond infertile moral judgments. In his second novel The Victim (1947) which portrays human anxieties in the modern era, Bellow comparatively asks his readers to confront nihilism, instead of ignoring it, and then make efforts to prevail over it, nevertheless the path he suggests differs from the one offered by Nietzsche. He depicts modern human’s predicament in The Victim by posing its central character in a disheartening situation, but concurrently shows his perturbed endeavors to discern a way to surmount that situation. Eventually he realizes that to divest himself out of that quandary, he must overcome his fear of death to salute life, and also to acknowledge the bond of human beings that creates in them a sense of responsibility toward each other. It is here that Bellow parts with Nietzsche who holds that elevation is only gained by the egotistic Overman. 



modern predicament, the will to power, active nihilism, humanity

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