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HENDERSON THE RAIN KING: THE HERO'S CROWNING AND DISCROWNING

Sigrid Rénaux1

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n former issues, several aspects of Saul Bellow's novel HENDERSON THE RAIN KING2 have already been discussed, such as space and time, the different aspects of Henderson's character, speech, his adventures with the Arnewi and part of his adventures with the Wariri, all of them inside Mikhail Bakhtin's concepts of the Menippean satire, polyphony and the camivalization of literature.

! Universidade Federal do Parana 2 Bellow, S.Henderson the Rain King. New York: Fawcett, 1959. All quotations from the novel are taken from this edition. 3 See Letras (39): 163-183, 1990; Estudos Anglo-Americanos (14-15): 104-132, 1990-91; Fragmenta (9), 1992; Estudos Anglo-Americanos (17), 1993; Humanas (2), 1993. This article corresponds to Chapter III, part 3, of my Ph. D. dissertation "Bellow's Camivalistic Vision of the World in Henderson the Rain King"(USP, 1978). The dissertation examines Bellow's novel by way of M. Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, in which he discusses, among other aspects, the camivalization of literature, the Menippean satire and polyphony. In the Introduction, after reviewing the American criticism on the novel, a summary of Bakhtin's basic theories is presented, in order to show how Bellow is not only a follower but also an innovator of the Menippean satire and of camivalistic literature. Chapter I - The Land - deals with space and time in the novel, inside the Mcnippea's social utopia, showing how both can I » placed on the levels of dream and reality simultaneously. Chapter II - The Hero - is concerned with the different aspects of Henderson's character which would place him inside the Menippea's moral-psychological experimentation. The hero's speech, in its tum, is examined by way of polyphony. Chapter III - The Quest - places the action of the novel inside

Letras,Curitiba,n.4 l-42,p.97-107,1992-93.Editora da UFPR

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1992-93. the creation of extraordinary situations to provoke and test a philosophical idea: the word or the truth. screaming. Henderson the In this issue. hugging themselves and one another and praising me". 98 Letras. His laughter of rebirth echoes while the Wariri continue "demonstrating in my honor. As Henderson tells us his adventures . the Bunam and the rest of them are scrutinizing him with their black eyes.the Bunam .41-42. grasses and pines to the box where Henderson and Dahfu . rituals and images.Editora da UFPR .he is now on the verge of being crowned the Wariri's Rain King. raving. while Dahfu.p. if examined through the camivalistic vision of the world. while two of the women carry skulls on long rusty standards and others hold small whips which resemble odd-looking fly whisks. who only faintly suspects a new ordeal is awaiting him.brings leaves. among the Wariri . S.using household utensils as weapons . flaunting the flags and clattering rattles and ringing bells while they climbed over one another with joy" in a typical camivalistic merriment. the cloud goddess. "the Wariri jumped up and down in the white stone of their stands.n. has already undergone two ordeals . The possibilities of rebirth and regeneration he had felt in America become true and he "welcomes life anew" in a carnivalistica joining of high and low words: "Damn the whole thing! Life anew! I was still alive and kicking and I had the old grun-tu-molani".97-107.after his feat of strength. the climactic scene of the novel will be dealt with Henderson's mock crowning and subsequent discrowning as Rain King or Sungo.RENAl'X. making ambiguous any monological interpretation of the novel.the Wariri King . These extraordinary situations are in their tum imbued with a whole scries of camivalistic categories. with his loyal guide Romilayu. as befits carnival symbols.the explosion of the frog cistern among the Amewi and raising the statue of Mummah. the black leather man. as a consequence of having lifted the heavy wooden idol. and. They all wait for Henderson.as first-person narrator . The climax of the rain-marking festivities lakes place now. lhe most important of the Menippean characteristics.are. singing. wreaths.Curitiha. which Bellow has conveyed to us. In the Conclusion we show how all aspects of the novel are brought together and how the work acquires a much richer and complex perspective. but also the whole pageant and ritual that goes with it: the high priest . Thus. for we have not only the mock-crowning of the king of carnival in Henderson as the Sungo or Rain King. In this manner. if Bellow's hero has left America in order to flee his "curse" and gone to Africa in quest of truth and wisdom.appears together with symbols of fertility and death. the carnival category of eccentricity .

no. for as the Bunam dressed m e in the vines and leaves. Sungo. Moreover. Ann Arbor: Ardis. And after this. the generaless began to strip m e of even the last covering of cotton "No. (. Problems of Dostoevski's Poetics. the comicality of the whole scene . Nor w a s that the end. with even a scepter in his hands. but by that time the underpants w e r e already d o w n around m y knees. the king soothes him by explaining that "they require your attendance to cleanse ponds and wells. according to the carnival ritual of changing of clothing. 1973. Sungolay".1992-93.in which carnivalistic disguise mixes 4 Bakhtin. and I w a s naked. she took off m y Bermuda shorts. conveys the fertility of spring and rain rituals symbolized in the leaves. but Tatu. Mr.p. a position of rain king of the Wariri. Henderson. while the stiff and stout old generaless. "Now. S. T h e title of this post is the Sungo. useless to resist. and with it. You are n o w the Sungo. which were notably travel-stained. grasses and pines with which the Bunam covers him. Henderson. Henderson is then stripped of his garments and the Sungo's outfit is put on him. T h e m a n w h o m o v e s M u m m a h occupies. And. Henderson is dressed up in vines and leaves as the Wariri Rain King. They say you were sent for this purpose". pulled away m y fingers and put one of those many-tongued whips into them. This left m e in m y jockey underpants. while eveiybody yells "Sungo. in consequence. T h e worst had happened. 103. if the white color of the calcareous stone paving the arena conveys sterility.) I tried to shield my nakedness with h a n d s and leaves. As Henderson's fears increase. wreaths. removed m y shoes. M. in his green splendor as Sungo. Like Dionysus.. Lctras. in contrast.Curitibaji. as carnival king. p. Dahfu also adds "Today you are the Sungo".97-107. bending with s o m e trouble.Editora da UFPR 99 . We have n e w s for you. after conferring on him the title of Sungo." I said. Henderson the Henderson's imminent crowning as rain king has again all the characteristics of the mock crowning of carnival. as expressed by the brevity of this position. As Dahfu explains to him. and that is w h y they are here"..4 l-42.RENAUX. Mr. of positions and destinies in life:4 T h e examiner came up f r o m behind and lifted off m y helmet. the amazon generaless. the green color which Henderson is dressed in as Sungo.

Henderson accompanies not only the dancing. in which a "slave"becomes "King". p.1992-93. S. I passed beneath the swinging heads. T h o s e were dead m e n that hung there.RENAUX. I had to yell. the archetypal Reveller.Curitibaj>. having no time to look. Where the hell are we going? 5 224. thus performing another carnival gesture. a farcical crowning. entering the crooked lanes of the town. Sypher. The skulls on the iron standards w e r e carried along as w e ran. forming a crescendo of life out of its "usual rut": A f e w stray men. too. 1956. 'Ya-na-bu-ni-ho-no-mummah!" In the middle of this rebirth or crowning ceremony. and I myself hopping naked in the flimsy leaves appeared to strike terror into these stragglers. for with his "feet lacerated by the stones. 5 Carnival excesses follow this crying. The Meanings of Comedy." and ceases to be a thinker. for we were running hard now. We made a circle of the town way out as far as the gallows. New York: Doubleday. and saying to myself.a crowd of masqueraders. oxymoronic combinations . thus mixing magic words with grotesque symbols of life and death. but also the yelling and thus he becomes again the Dionysiac hero.41 -42. free gestures. for civilized m a n finds again his archaic being among the throng. youth and age.Editora da UFPR . dazed. 100 Letras. running with terror in my bowels" he still is the rain king. a hard course: panting and sobbing. Tatu. w h o happened to be in the way were beaten by the w o m e n and scrambled for their lives. In the epidemic theatre there is a metamorphosis. Amidst the naked amazons chanting and crying. mostly old. shrieking. They were fixed on sconces. I too cried.p. Henderson's next "ordeal" has begun. high and low. He becomes the Dionysiac hero. I was. W. m a n loses his personal identity. comedy and tragedy. who brought her face near mine with open mouth. Henderson "was dancing on burnt and cut feet over hot stones. Instructed by the generaless. Then ihey all start to run. Henderson lhe with the menippea's "underworld naturalism". This is a typical carnival complex . In: Comedy. the crowd ninning harder now. his "differentiation.97-107. a king that is a clown.reflects the mocking nature of the whole crowning scene. In Wylie Sypher's words when he sings lhe wild songs of Bacchus. each entertaining a crowd of vultures.

for they meant disaster for Henderson and the natives.his elemental enemy. still leaping and chanting. Henderson's second experience with water . I thought they might m e a n m e to lie there sucked into the bottom of the pond.) les h o r m o n e s des pollens antédiluviens! Être ainsi guéri par les fleurs d'autrefois.4 l-42. in which birth (the rain-making ceremonies. Henderson the The oxymoronic combination between this carnivalistic scene of Henderson running and dancing among the Wariri. Their destination is the big cattle pond where a comic rebirth ceremony or baptism takes place. and I latched on to these and w a s d r a w n forth. p.. Here. but now the skull carriers offered m e their iron standards.p. G. I might almost have preferred to remain there in the m u d . r é a n i m é par les p r i n t e m p s d i s p a r u s .and mud is far more positive. This contact with water and mud brings us back to Henderson's experience with the Arnewi. au m o i n s p a r l'efficacité des rêves. Paris: J. with negative implications. for. the women threw themselves upon me. so low w a s my will. La Terre et les Rêveries de la Volonté.Curitiba. This water w a s only about six inches deep. and into this I sank. in which nature renews itself) is fraught with death (the executions that had taken place the day before) and death with new birth. for. the soft m u d w a s far deeper.n. I came. une grande vérité. Nor w a s any h u m o r intended. They picked m e up and gave m e a h e a v e that landed m e in the super-heated sour water in w h i c h s o m e long-horned cattle were standing. Corti. All w a s done in the greatest earnestness. 132. where water and mud had been disagreeable experiences.Editora da UFPR 101 .1992-93. with the dead frogs offering a sickening sight in the yellow mud at the bottom of the reservoir. 6 If water/mud in the first experience has been a negative element (the dead frogs covered with mud reflecting back the image of the octopus filling Henderson with "cosmic coldness" making him feel he was "dying") we now 6 Bachelard. S. dripping stale mud. c ' e s t . out of the pond. as he is a compound of fire and earth characteristics .RENAUX.. Letras. Anger was useless. 1971. and the swinging of the dead corpses on the gallows brings us back again to the core of carnival symbols. however.97-107. according to Bachelard. mud has "des valeurs anciennes": les bains b e boue garderaient encore (.

1974.as he later discovers . 510. surrounded by whips. pitiful and rude. who has the power to die and come to life again . for. the champion. characterized by wild dances. with all the comic overtones this implies. a stubborn old lush with broken bridgework. As in the ceremonies of the Dionysian cult of suffering and resurrection of the god. against his will. Sicily. ancient. Water is here not only related to earth through mud. The earnestness with which the Wariri perform this business of throwing Henderson into the cattle pond is set in contrast again to his parodical description of his own position when he ennumerates his titles and characteristics.he is also reanimated by the lost springtimes and ancient flowers: mud has led Henderson back to the "valeurs anciennes". in the cattle pond. for as rain and fertility king . . etc.S. 102 Letras.97-107. as his successor and mental inheritor). if he was discrowned after his first experience with the Arnewi. abridged ed. p. a m a n of flesh and blood. And. his experiences with the natives tend to be primitive. in the same way that he has found in Africa "the ancient bed of mankind". Henderson 7 Frazer. but also to fire.G. London: Macmillan. And Henderson's "bain de boue" is a comic counterpart of Bachelard's quotation. 7th. Henderson the move to more positive results in which mud. threatening death and suicide.through pain and ordeal (as later on he will also "die" in Dahfu and be "reborn" in the king's blood. in a carnivalistic atmosphere. The exhilaration produced by wine and Dionysus' ecstatic worship.Curit¡ba. here he is. Henderson's "old self' thus "dies" and is "rcborn"through these experiences . as "soft matter". ritualistic. this time through his unexpected mud bath.Captain Henderson. once more in an oxymoronic combination of high and low: Yes. the mover of M u m m a h . as always. Henderson undergoes an ordeal that leads up to his "death" and "resurrection" with the coming of rain. The death-rebirth theme. S. a giant shadow. where Henderson in his Dionysian outfit runs.A.41 -42. Because of this.like Dionysus. veteran of North Africa.1992-93. J. now he remains the Wariri rain king. Monte Cassino. a restless seeker. thrilling music and tipsy excess7 becomes again manifested in the exceses of the rainmaking ceremonies. skulls and guns.n. back towards the arena. The Golden Bough. Here comes Henderson of the U.RENAUX. for the pond is "superheated". Purple Heart. the Sungo.Editora da UFPR . crosses Henderson's path.p. rejuvenates Henderson with its "hormones of antidiluvian polens".

for. to produce fertility through rain..RENAUX. This quotation again brings out other similarities between the rites of Dionysus adn Henderson's crowning ceremony.) and comic action can risk a different s o n of purgation and triumph. This view helps us to better understand the whole conception not only of the rain-making festivities.while the whole ceremony acquires a Bacchanalian atmosphere. Henderson lhe was whirled with them. They were shrieking. and rebirth.. S. The women about m e were dancing (. attest to its power of regeneration.).. growth.Curitiba. decay. 220.. the life cycle of seasons has the same structure as comedy.. Sypher points out.. shrieking (. W. drums and skulls keeping pace (.. The lamentation of the Arncwi because of drought and the revelry and rejoicing of the Wariri after Henderson has moved Mummah and thus bought rain. The tragic arc is only hinh: struggle: death.4l-42. Consequently the range of comedy is wider than the tragic range (. p. For both the Dionysian rites and the rain-making festivities have again the same bjective of celebrating fertility through the life cycle of the seasons: birth. (.those Greek choric hymns of wild character . again in an oxymoronic combination.. their rain king. you rulers of heaven ! Oh.) O. you dooming powers! Oh. from the anthropologist's view (. 8 Sypher. as W. There was great delirium.) We were yelling and jumping and whirling through terrified lanes.n...) w e all turned and rushed into the arena . but also of the whole novel.97-l07. death.. crying in my filth and frenzy.). I will black out ! (.1 with the rest.Editora da UFPR 103 .)..p. fot the singing and shrieking of the natives acquire dythirambic overtones ... All were flying toward me.. feet pounding. spinning around inspired. entering m y brain (.).) the entire ceremonial cycle is binh: struggle: death: resurrection... They were bounding and screaming and banging their bodies into me.!992-93. "Ya-na-bu-ni-ho-no-mum-mah!" as before (..) After the gust of breeze came deeper darkness (.. In a larger context. Letras..

n. Nevertheless. uniting the high and the low. the sky slowly lilis with heavy rain clouds and the air becomes "tumescent. "No. is again present in this orgiastic scene. "No.Curitiha. 1969. under the oppression of Mummah's great clouds. p.p.) threatening death and suicide". 1893. it's the same darkness that exists in the fiercest clearnesses of lorrid Messina". "fell like Vesuvius. all the upper part flame and lhe blood banging upward like the pitch or magma".97-107.ss seems to acquire a deeper significance in a similar passage in The Achemures of Augie March. yearning for a "discharge". 146-7. S. Leip/ig: Kröner. tints exemplifying again the Menippean characteristic of the search for truth.. a "pitiful rude man".41-42. New York: Viking. drums and skulls keeping pace". leaping. the implications seem to be similar. those colossal tuberous forms almost breaking". as his ordeal continues and he is whirled on among the naked natives.RENAl'X. truth. while the people are "standing. which is like darkness eternal" thus mingling in one extended tire image the scorching heat outside in nature and inside Henderson's body and feelings. dripping stale mud. truth!". Henderson the Henderson then. In a tremeni As E R o h d c describes the Dionysian "stale": "Diese Überreizung der Empfindung bis zu visionären Zuständen bewirkten. justice!" And after that I changed m y mind and cried. p. The deeper darkeness1 that approaches is again compared to "the pungent heat of the trains when they pass into Grand Central tunnel on a devastated day of August. for Henderson. a captain but also "a stubborn old lush (. feet pounding. den man erreichen wollte. das Dunkel. 104 Lelras. die Musik. as also the camivalistic two-in-one images. It is the climactic cry for truth in the hero's extraordinary situation. heavy". Diese äusserstc Erregung war der Zweck. all die Veranstaltungen dieses Aufregungskulles. for Henderson is a king but also a "restless seeker". Fire imagery. cries out to heaven and to the dooming powers. for while the yelling and jumping goes on through "terrified lanes. dass nur durch solche Überspannung und Ausweitung seines Wesens der Mensch in Verbindung und Berührung treten zu können schien mit Wesen einer höheren Ordnung. Einen religiösen Sinn hatte diese gewaltsam herbeigeführte Steigerung des Gefühls darin. The ordeal is still not over. m Darkne. mit dem Gölte und seinen Geislerscharen". a "poor stumbling bully". der rasende Tan/wirbel. frantic. Henderson then runs back to the arena with the ama/. bei hiefür Empfängliche. Psyche. in an invocation to the supernatural powers:9 "Mercy. have mercy!" And after that 1 yelled. no.ons.Editora da UFPR . is his comic earth costume. 201. in contrast to the oncoming rain.1992-93.. in which lhe darkness covering Westminster is one "in which resolutions have to be made .it isn't merely local.

piety... So stirred. hut nalure itself. in spite of Henderson's yells. Henderson throws himself down. No longer lhe artist. gesture and word are liberated in this life "drawn out of its usual rut". lhe individual forgets himself completely. Henderson too has to strike and be struck by the whips. 77 te Modern Tradition. and man's behavior.97-107. F. Dionysiac stirrings arise cither Ihrough the influence of those narcotic potions of which all primitive races speak in their hymns..sehe. p. Each of his gestures betokens enchantment. p.) Now lhe slave emci^esasa free man. S.) He feels himself lo lie godlike and strides wilh lhe same elation and ecstasy as lhe gods he has seen in his dreams. which penetrales with joy lhe whole frame of nature. while the gods "bore it defenseless".. In: Ellmann.) Not only Joes lhe bond between man and man come lo lie forged once more by the magic of the Dionysiac rite.RENAUX. as rain-king. rises again to cclcbratc lhe reconciliation with her prodigal son.n. and the women rush upon the ligures of the gods and strike them violently with their whips. Thus." is in the same spirit as camivalistic festivities: the participants live carnival. This madness to wich Henderson refers. i: Bakhtin. I fended off blows from my position on my kness. long alienated or subjugated. and in this humiliating or "discrowning" position. human sacrifice and flagellation were part of the rituals. And. crying "Thy will be done! Not my will.Oiritiba.Editora da UFPR 105 . M. etiquette" are suspended. 101. enacting out again Dionysus' sufferings and death as he lies prostrated during the ceremony. Dionysius. Lelras. birth and death.41-42. It is this same god. for it seemed to me that I was fighting for my life. (. "Dionysus und Apollo". only to suffer again flagellation. as the product of formative forces arising directly from nature and so masterfully described in Nietzsche's "Dionysos and Apollo".. (.. Press. who suffers and resurrects. for "caught up in this madness. moving through his feat of lifting the cloud goddess from a slave to a god-like position. Henderson the dous delirium.1992-93. awe. he is obliged to perform the duty of the rain king. but Tatu raises him to his kness... 1965. & Feidelson. trying with all his might to avoid beating the gods himself.) Man now expresses himself ihrough song and dance (. against his will. for "the hierarchical 12 system and all the connected forms ol fear..). hostile walls which either necessity or despotism has erected between men are shattered (. Now York: Oxford Univ. 550: lhe closest analogy lo apprehend the essence of Dionysiac rapture is furnished by "physical intoxication. all the rigid. they are nearing the gods. death and rebirth during the rain ceremony. in an oxymoronic combination of sacred and profane. if at the Dionysian cults. (. crawling on the ground. man. high and low. this swooning or "intoxication" already mentioned as belonging to the Dionysiac state. but Thy will!". the ceremonies in honor of Dionysus and of the Sungo are brought into touch through their common camivalistic aspects.. R. that Ii Niel/. eds..p. who relinquishes life and then is born again. he has himself become a work of art". and I yelled". or Ihrough the powerful approach of spring. C. with Henderson.

after this general purgation through whipping. together with Henderson's positive exertion in having lifted Mummah. M. covering the whole orgiastic scene with silver bubbles .the hero who has lifted Mummah . malgré lui. 103. like a giant turnip". y o u ' v e got to help me. Look at the condition I'm in." (. stresses that "Henderson's African experiences." as if his helmet . Where is the king'..41-42. Finally the clouds open and rain 3 begins to fall.p.is further enhanced by the concern he displays with his helmet. in which "the regal vestments are stripped from the discrownee. Dahfu returns to his palace and Henderson is left standing in his "coat of earth. a thunderclap is heard.could be a substitute for his lost rain-king outfit or cover up his nakedness.14 But the comicality of his lœking like a "giant turnip" . The regenerating powers of rain have thus finally extinguished.no longer the rustic god of wine and jollity. Find m y clothes. And. "Romilayu.. He has been divested of his comic rain-king attire. 14 Bakhtin.1992-93. man. As he tells his guide. purifying the air and the frenzied bodies. with what is left over from his green costume of Sungo. symbolize rebirth . "Bellow's Henderson and the Limits of Freudian Criticism". including the rain-making. in which the gods are disparaged. as befits dethroning. Paunch (36-37):44. his crown is taken off.n.' W h e r e are they all? Pick up m y clothes .Editora da UFPR . chanting and dancing. after the ordeal was over and rain was pouring down. the malevolent lire that burned inside him. although Henderson's adventures in Africa are by no means over for other more dangerous experiences lie ahead. the remaining symbols of authority are removed. for the hero has at last managed to test his physical prowess and thus become. and he is ridiculed and beaten".another crown . still a turning point has been reached. In this manner. p. teach him thai there are relations among man's body." (. A real deluge follows. M. naked. in contrast to the octopus's bubbles. not even the god of orgiastic delirium. 106 Letra>. in order to obtain truth. Ii Steig. April 1973..m y helmet.) "I've got to have my helmet. Henderson the became a symbol of everlasting life ..97-107. S. as part of the ordeal he has to pass through.REN Al'X. The great crowning has ended. the Sungo.) "please. spirit and lhe metaphysical universe which are beyond lhe limits of rationalistic thought".which.while the amazons embrace Henderson with their now wet bodies.Curitiha.

"Dionysus and Apollo". SYPHER. C. 1959. 1965.Editora da UFPR 107 . na qual o herói é coroado e e m seguida descornado c o m o Sungo.4l-42. J. The Modern Tradition. In: Ellmann. ROHDE. New York: Viking. Henderson the Rain King. ou Rei da Chuva dos Wariri. The Ach'entures ofAugie March. thus making ambiguous any monological interpretation of the episodes. p. de Saul Bellow. 1956. Press. c o m o apresentados por Bakhtin em Problems of Dostoevsky s Poetics.n. A cena inteira está impregnada de categorias. S. London. New York: Doubleday. S. M. FRAZER. M.p. G. G.36-37. & Feidelson. rituais e imagens carnavalescos. STEIG.Corti. Paunch n.RENAUX. eds. NIETZSCHE.97-107. In: Comedy. RESUMO Este trabalho discute a cena culminante d o romance Henderson the Rain King. Leipzig: Kroner. BELLOW. R. Macmillan. Letras. Ann Arbor: Ardis. rituals and images. BIBLIGRAPHICAL REFERENCES BACHELARD. or Rain King of the Wariri. F.1992-93. New York: Fawcett. The whole scene is imbued with camivalistic categories. april 1973. "The Meanings of Comedy". as discussed by Bakhtin in Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. New York: Oxford Univ. 1893. BAKHTIN. W. .39-46. ambigüizando desta maneira qualquer interpretação monológica dos eventos.G. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Psyche. Paris. Henderson the SUMMARY T h i s article deals with the climactic scene of Bellow's novel Henderson the Rain King. E. 1969. 1973.Curi(iba. 1971. in which the hero is crowned and subsequently discrowned as the Sungo. La Terre et les Rê\'eries de la Volonté. The Golden Bough. 1974. "Bellow's Henderson and the Limits of Freudian Criticism".

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