62 pages 2 hours read

Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1953

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Symbols & Motifs


Augie is the self-aware narrator of his own story. He knows the power of such stories, having spent so much of his life as an avid reader. While he grows and develops in many respects, a love of literature is one of the sole throughlines of his self-identity, something that is true of him at any age. For the underprivileged young son of an immigrant family, someone who grew up in great poverty, books represent a world beyond the dirty streets of Chicago. Whether reading to Grandma Lausch or discovering his own favorite novels, Augie is able to break out of his poverty whenever he picks up a book. Augie’s love of books—and, perhaps, his motivation to share his story with the audience—symbolizes an irrepressible desire to escape his immediate situation and journey somewhere else. Eventually, he travels far and wide in the real world. At all times, however, he continues to read books and reach new worlds.

In a more practical sense, books also symbolize the way Augie begins to synthesize the lessons he learns from the adults in his life. Grandma Lausch imbues Augie with a love of reading but also with a belief that he should break certain rules (and perhaps even laws) if it will help him survive.