Tommy Wilhelm, the protagonist of Seize the Day by Saul Bellow, is a middle-aged man who is temporarily living in the big city of New York. On the outside, Tommy seems to be a man of trouble and sorrow. He is hampered by the separation with his wife and kids, the relationship he has with his father, the loss of his job, and his financial stability, just to name a few. Throughout his life, one failure seems to follow another, eventually leading up to a final breakdown and a dramatic self-reflection. However, Tommy truly tries to be the typical "good" citizen and strives to become a better person. Tommy Wilhelm does indeed portray the traits of righteousness and veracity through his ambition for life, his partial success in the past, and mainly through his love and responsibility for his children. A deeper and closer look at the individual of Tommy Wilhelm reveals a complicated and layered character filled with the basis of goodness and integrity.
Although not outwardly and directly seen, Tommy Wilhelm does have goals and aspirations for his life. Growing up as a young adult, he was extremely fervent for the rest of his life to begin. In the beginning of the novel, Bellow narrates, "But Wilhelm had been eager for life to start" (Bellow, 19). Since that time, Tommy agrees that he needs to make things better for himself and strives to fulfill this want and need. Tommy even prays to get this point across. "Oh, God. Let me out of my trouble. Let me out of my thoughts, and let me do something better with myself. For all the time I have wasted I am very sorry. Let me out of this clutch and into a different life. For I am all balled up.