Tag Archives: philip roth

Philip Roth, Indignation (2008)

philip_roth_indignation_2008Philip Roth, Indignation (2008), 231p

“of the terrible, the incomprehensible way one’s most banal, incidental, even comical choices achieve the most disproportionate result.”

Marcus Messner is the son of Jewish parents, a kosher butcher and his wife, in Newark, New Jersey. Messner is phonetically close to the German word for knife: ‘Messer’. The knife and cutting is a returning and central symbol in Indignation, Marcus dies by the bayonet, his father’s livelihood depends on his knife skills, Olivia Hutton has cut her wrist in an attempted suicide.

Another thread in the story is the indignation Marcus feels about having to attend mass 40 times as a requirement at Winesburg college. At Dean Caudwell’s office, he recites two full pages from Bertrand Russel’s “Why I am Not a Christian.” This theme is closed at the end of the book, with the White Panty Raid. The ‘Panty Raid‘ was a historic phenomenon that started in 1949 and lasted through the 1950s at American colleges. In 1971, a student uprising at Winesburg college resulted in the abolishment of the mass attendance requirement. Marcus Messner’s final doom is caused by this requirement and Ziegler’s proxying for him at the chapel.

‘Indignation’ is associated to ‘American Pastoral’ and ‘I married a Communist’ and has been called the ‘American Trilogy’ by Roth.

Indignation (2016)

The great American novel (1973)

philip_roth_the_great_american_novelPhilip Roth, The great American novel (1973)

“Because their name isn’t Mundy anymore. It’s Muny, good old-fashioned dough! They have maligned the name-mangled it beyond repair! You are the true Mundys, boys, and not because it was the name of your robber-baron father, either! No, because it is short for Mundane! Meaning common, meaning ordinary-meaning the man in the street who’s fed up to here with the Mundy brothers […]. The Mundane, who do the dirty work of this world, their noses to the ground or the grounder, their tails to the whip, while the Mundy brothers stash it away in Fort Knox! Their name your name?”

The great American novel is a history of the American spirit. But the American spirit and the socio-economic structures that formalize it can take ridicule forms. In an attempt to reveal the true enemy of freedom, individualism and the American spirit embodying them, namely the unbalanced and injust extremes of capitalism, Roth turns the the all-American pastime for the metaphorical world that is threatened. Continue reading