Friday, 5 April 2019

Leaving the Yellow House

Saul Bellow
An elderly and self-destructive dipsomaniac lives in a yellow house. She is lonely, prone to self-deception, and incapable of talking care of herself. Some of her neighbors tell her that they will care for her if she leaves her house to them. But she does not want to give them the house.

When her condition worsens after an accident, she is forced to look back into her past and examine the key events. She thinks of many people but she is unable to remember anyone to whom she can leave the house. Finally, she decides to leave the house to the only person that she cares for—herself.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter that she writes to her lawyer:

“It is too soon! Too soon! Because I do not find it in my heart to care for anyone as I would wish. Being cast off and lonely, and doing no harm where I am. Why should it be? This breaks my heart. In addition to everything else, why must I worry about this, which I must leave? I am tormented out of my mind. Even though by my own fault I have put myself into this position. And I am not ready to give up on this. No, not yet. And so I’ll tell you what, I leave this property, land, house, garden and water rights, to Hattie Simmons Waggoner. Me! I realize this is bad and wrong. It cannot happen. Yet it is the only thing I really wish to do, so may God have mercy on my soul.”

After writing the letter to her lawyer, she goes to bed. Her last thoughts, before she falls asleep: “But I won’t be selfish from the grave. I’ll think again tomorrow.” Saul Bellow’s Leaving the Yellow House is a pessimistic story, but I think most readers can empathize with the protagonist Hattie Simmons Waggoner.

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