Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Silver Dish-Saul Bellow

A Silver Dish is essentially a story written by Saul Bellow that describes the main character, Woody, and his reflection on his father’s death. When Woody’s dad, Morris, passes, Woody is sent into a stage of nostalgia, remembering times, both good and bad, of his father, the lessons Woody’s father taught him, and why Woody loved him so much. In particular, Woody is reminded by church bells of the time his father had him help connive $50.00 from Mrs. Skoglund, head of the seminary Woody attended. During their attempt, Morris steals a silver dish from Mrs. Skoglund’s china cabinet. Woody and his father physically fight over the dish, and Woody has his father agree to return it. Although Woody thought his father returned the dish, his father actually stole it and was granted the $50.00. Later, Woody was questioned about the missing dish and ultimately was expelled from the seminary. Woody confronted his father about it, only to be told that the dish was pawned off and he could go buy it back if he wanted it. After the flashback, we are taken into the hospital as Morris is laying in his deathbed. He is fighting the treatments by pulling the IV tubes out of his arms. Woody climbs into the bed with his father and restrains him, not letting him pull the tubes out. However, while Woody holds him, his father essentially shuts down his body, dispelling all the heat from himself, and dies.

I think the opening paragraph and a portion of the second paragraph serve for Bellow to voice his ideas on death. In the first paragraph, Bellow asks, “What do you do about death?” This is a universally perplexing question. No one person reacts to death the same. Some choose to mourn, others choose to accept it, and still others choose to ignore it. Further in the opening paragraph, Bellow describes the actions of the Lufhansa pilots in Aden (I think he means a middle-eastern suicide pilot) and how they kill without remorse and are not scared of death. He then says, “That’s what you read in the press, see on the tube, mention at dinner.” Furthermore, Bellow states that death is “like a global death-peristalsis.” Death is a commonplace, everyday occurrence in society, so what makes the death of one person meaningful and significant?

“To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”—Dr. Seuss

One thing I found interesting in this story was that Woody always seemed to take care of everyone else but himself. Woody took care of his father, mother, his two sisters who were retarded, and even his wife he was separated from for 15 years. In one instance, Woody gave his father all the money he earned working on a golf course. After 15 years of separation, Woody still shopped for his wife every Friday, filling up her freezer. Throughout the story we hear of all the things Woody does for everyone else, but no one ever seems to do anything for Woody. Woody doesn’t even have time to mourn for his father. No one ever asks Woody how he’s holding up or anything.

One connection I made (it’s kind of random) was in the end when it talks about Woody traveling all over the world to places like Japan, Africa, Jerusalem, etc. It really reminded me of Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” I don’t know if Woody traveled and did extreme things (like smuggle hashish) because of his father’s death or just to feel alive. I think with no one around to listen to him, Woody had to do something in order to remind himself there was more to life than just working and taking care of other people.

My final comment is on Woody’s upbringing. Woody faced a lot of tribulations growing up. His father and mother split up when he was young, he was surrounded by people that didn’t genuinely love Woody, and his father definitely didn’t set a good example for him as he lied, stole, and gambled. Yet, through all of these hardships, Woody grew up to be a wise and successful businessman. He completely turned his situation around and did not let it bring him down. Woody could have easily slipped down the same path as his father, or become a preacher like everyone wanted him to, but Woody chose what was right for him.


  1. Thanks...your commentary on A Silver Dish was really helpful...I like the connections you made pertaining to his father's death and the reason he travels the world. :-)

  2. Thanks a lot. This one helped me to understand the story.