Seize the Day, first published in 1956, is considered (by, for example, prominent critic James Wood) one of the great works of 20th century literature. Seize the Day was Saul Bellow's fourth novel. It was written in the 1950s, a formative period in the creation of the middle class in the United States.
The story centers around a day in the life of Wilhelm Adler (aka Tommy Wilhelm), a failed actor in his forties. Wilhelm is unemployed, impecunious, separated from his wife (who refuses to agree to a divorce), and estranged from his children and his father. He is also stuck with the same immaturity and lack of insight which has brought him to failure. In Seize the Day Wilhelm experiences a day of reckoning as he is forced to examine his life and to finally accept the "burden of self".