The Plot Against America

This is a literary criticism of The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth, analyzing the significance of the novel's structure.


In The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth, the story of an alternate history for the United States of America reveals the unpredictable and fluid nature of history and relates it to human nature.

Society is like a hive. It is a reflection of the human mind’s morality and empathy in varying complex situations that require decision making abilities and judgment in a massive majority. This alternate historical novel connects the coming of age experience of the ten year old main character growing up in a fascist America to the American people’s learning through shameful experiences. The themes of the novel in relation to the human nature that will be analyzed are coming of age, loss or confusion of spirituality and morality, and empathy. And although the overarching plot of this novel is about an alternate history, the truth is that the plot only serves to further develop the themes introduced above.
In The Plot Against America, the citizens of America elect a Nazi sympathizing American hero, Charles A. Lindbergh, who turns the country fascist and through neutrality, creates an alliance with Nazi Germany. As main character, young Phillip Roth, grows up living in a world of religious discrimination and intense hatred, it shapes his view of the world and he must use his morals to filter all that is happening in his world. Young Phillip Roth is obsessed with stamp collecting, a mindless and pointless hobby. His older brother however, is known to have more profound thought and is a great artist and scholar. That relationship represents mental and personal growth. At one point, Roth’s brother is sent to a camp to teach him to be more American and in fact, comes back very changed and racist. This experience reveals how the country had been corrupted and corrupted its youth. Before all were allowed to have individual thought and beliefs, but now everyone must believe collectively and definitively that the decisions made by the government are correct. This touches upon the theme of conformity. America cannot have a population of one belief system because that goes against our foundation, a system of checks and balances, to insure that we stay in a broad moral equilibrium. These are all life lessons for a young child growing up to learn. As The Plot Against America shows, this anti-Semitic feeling was learned by the hive through propaganda, corruption, and conformity, and America could have very easily gone down the same path as Nazi Germany. This is show when the main character says:
“But how will I get out?” And all at once the door was open--and there was Seldon and behind him his mother. "How'd you do that?" I said. "I opened the door," he said. "But how?" He shrugged. "I pushed. I just pushed. It was open all the time." And that was when I began to bawl and Mrs. Wishnow took me in her arms and said, "That's okay. Things like this happen. They can happen to anyone.” (Roth)
This passage exemplifies the learning experience the Roth tried to create.
These circumstances are not meant to be the main focus, but an interesting plot line that helps create the theme of loss or confusion of spirituality and morality. How this situation came about was by the collective loss of humanity, spirituality (moral compass), and frustration, created by a loss of life’s purpose and meaning. As a society, it seems we periodically lose the meaning of life and need war or social unrest to shine light on all the values we have always had. This tunnel vision led to blaming and lashing out against an innocent, but vulnerable group of people, a mechanism commonly employed. When frustrated, we act irrationally in an attempt to understand ourselves and grow. Charles A. Lindbergh used his status as an American hero to create himself a political presence. In his first speech as a political figure, he speaks of his intentions of not involving the United States in the war in Europe. He feels that FDR and the country’s Jewish population are pushing for involvement, putting their bias before the safety of the people. Lindbergh runs his campaign identifying the problem in our country and presenting his ideals as the solution. His persuasive nature and convincing campaign entice the Americans who are frustrated and do not want to be involved in a conflict that does not involve them. These negative emotions pulled the American people away from their morals and thus began the blaming. This is why the people of America are more tolerable of the unjustifiable treatment of Jewish Americans and the Jewish in Europe. If the Jewish are the problem and not me, then let us deal with the problem. They had no intentions at all and became voluntarily ignorant and corrupt. Everyone wanted to turn their heads away from the problem in Europe and hope it went away, rather than showing compassion and support.
Through point of view, Roth weaves in the concept of empathy throughout the novel. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is the ability to put oneself into another’s mind and situation and understand their emotions and wants. Sympathy is the sharing of emotions. So, sympathy is felt towards the racial tension in the story, but to fully understand how these radical views came about and how it affected everyone requires empathy. The point of view of view allows the experience of a little boy’s rationalization and comprehension of the reason for his family’s, his neighborhoods, and his isolation and alienation. The Jewish community to which he identified himself with his entire life, was made a pariah and made him question the morality that existed. The victims of the Holocaust were powerless in their people’s systematic annihilation. Therefore, imagining the innocent and simple children, unaware of political and economic motives, who lived through these atrocious times, puts into perspective how irrational the hatred of the Jewish race was. Empathy is yes created for the puppets of Hitler’s plan and the victims of it, but most importantly, empathy is the solution to deeper healing at many spiritual levels as a people. And by showing that America could have easily followed Nazi Germany and become fascist, it creates understanding. In times of war, countries seem to take strong stances as though they are whole heartedly correct and need to fight for that. The truth is that nothing is static, everything is constantly moving and changing.
The Plot against America by Phillip Roth, is a novel about human nature and personal growth. This alternate history is really a coming of age novel that analyzes the human mind and suggests that politics is an extension of human behavior.
(D.U. 2014)

Everyman By Philip Roth:

A Commentary on the Essential Realization of Mortality


[(Essay date 3 June 2008) In the following essay, K.B. discusses the main character of Philip Roth’s Everyman. K.B. attempts to analyze Roth’s approach in depicting the “everyman,” who grows conscious of his own mortality only through his deterioration. K.B. addresses Roth’s ability to capture the stoic, existentialist perspective of the protagonist by juxtaposing the controllable and uncontrollable aspects of life].

"It's because life's most disturbing intensity is death. It's because death is so unjust. It's because once one has tasted life, death does not seem natural. I had thought-secretly I was certain that life goes on and on"(Roth 169). Philip Roth’s Everyman serves as a morbid manifestation of the human condition. The novel addresses the pending realization which plagues all of humanity: death is inevitable. The nameless protagonist becomes progressively aware of the limitations of individual existence as he witnesses his own deterioration and his inability to prevent it. Roth captures the innate tragedy of life Roth begins the story of the protagonist’s life with his death. This unconventional order symbolizes Roth’s existentialist position. The protagonist is not granted a name because he is not just one man, he is “everyman;” he is the embodiment of all humanity. He, like all mankind, is dead from page one. He, similarly, cannot escape from his ultimate fate: the inevitable end of life.

It had all come to nothing…It was as though painting
was his exorcism. But designed to expel what malignancy?
The oldest of self-delusions? Or had he run to painting to attempt to deliver
himself from knowledge that you are born to live but die instead? Suddenly he
was lost in nothing, in the sound of the two syllables “nothing” no less than in
nothingness, lost and drifting, and the dread began to seep in. Nothing comes
without risk, he thought, nothing-nothing-there’s nothing that doesn’t backfire, not even painting stupid
pictures.(Roth 103)

It is the death of the protagonist which makes his existence authentic to the reader. Death, which often seems illusory, is what makes man most conscious of his fate. Roth defies the normalcy of novels with the death of the main character. It is this defiance, coupled with the irony of beginning a novel with the end of life, which enables the reader to relate to the him. The fact that the protagonist dies, a character which usually conquers over all obstacles, renders him more vulnerable, an unmistakable human quality. The protagonist’s death makes him more accessible to the reader because he, like everyone, is subject the pressures and pleasures of life, as well as the fear of death. The repetition of “nothing” in the above passage echoes the existentialist perspective of Roth, the protagonist, and all humanity. It captures the fear that life is nothing more than preparation for death, that life is absurd and nothing is transcendent, that nothingness consumes the void between birth and death. Roth uses impersonal pronouns so as to allow the reader to assign identity to the protagonist, portraying the protagonist as a shadow of his readers.

While the limitations of mortality evoke a response of hopelessness in the protagonist, Everyman is Roth’s response to the perceived horrors of existentialism. Roth seems to experience a similar terror at the thought of death as the protagonist. Roth questions the reader, through the mind of the “everyman,” “…how does one voluntarily choose to leave our fullness for that endless nothing? How would he do it?…Leaving-the very word that had conveyed him into breathless, panic-filled wakefulness, delivered alive from embracing a corpse”(165). It seems here that Roth is confronting this question alongside the protagonist and his readers. This is effective for it maintains the idea that the protagonist is the “everyman,” for even the author is able to relate to him. This establishes a connection between the author and his audience, making Everyman a sort of commentary on all humanity. While the author struggles with accepting death, he promotes a stoic response to the absurdity innate in the idea that “…we are born to live but die instead…” The protagonist displays this stoicism throughout the novel, predominately in what is daughter calls his “…stoic maxim…”(4): “’There’s no remaking reality…Just take it as it comes. Hold your ground and take it as it comes”’(5). Roth asserts his desire to react stoically to his mortality but acknowledges the difficulty in doing so. This novel is accessible because it addresses the author’s beliefs, while simultaneously demonstrating its flaws. Everyman embodies the human condition: a constant state of self-confliction in accepting human limitations.

In addition to the protagonist’s death, Roth portrays the plight of the “everyman” through his juxtaposition of choice with the inescapable. The protagonist endures phases of interwoven joy and suffering based upon his decisions in life. As a young man, the main character finds immediate happiness in his decisions but suffers long-term pain. He is married and divorced three times and must live with his self-appointed loneliness.

Following their speedy progress with his gaze was a
pleasure, but a difficult pleasure, and at bottom the mental caress was a source
of biting sadness that only intensified an unbearable loneliness. True, he had
chosen to live alone, but not unbearably alone. The worst of being unbearably
alone was that you had to bear it-either that or you were sunk. You had to work
hard to prevent your mind from sabotaging you by its looking hungrily back at
the superabundant past.(102)

In accordance with existentialist philosophy, Roth asserts that it is one’s decisions in life which determine the condition and value of one’s life. The protagonist, after having acted according to physical desires and acquiring transitory happiness, had to endure the consequential loneliness which followed. This passage is particularly haunting because Roth speaks from experience through the protagonist, directly to the reader. Roth, who wrote Everyman at age seventy-three, expresses his own sense of regret and agony through the protagonist. The reader witnesses his realization that he is not eternal, that he cannot revisit the past and is subject to the circumstances of the moment. His use of powerful language, such as “…biting sadness…,” and “…sabotaging..” along with his repetition of “…unbearable loneliness,” due to its intensity, leads the reader to believe that what is expressed is personally based. Additionally, Roth’s use of the word “you” gives the illusion that he is directly addressing his audience(humanity), speaking to us from his own experience. By personifying the mind in this passage, “…prevent your mind from sabotaging you…,” Roth reveals the internal struggle he, along with all humanity, faces. It is a struggle derived from the solipsistic belief that only the self exists, that the individual lives and dies independently of all. This belief may also serve as explanation for the protagonist's lack of identity. His identity is unimportant to all but himself. His experiences, while relateable, are his alone to endure. Through the protagonist’s actions, he assigns himself “unbearable loneliness.” The author’s repetition of this phrase demonstrates the agony of solitude which is sharpened by his realization that he alone is the cause of it. Roth emphasizes that the individual must “bear” the consequences of their actions. While in his youth, the "everyman" feels empowered by his ability to make decisions, but ultimately discovers that a consequence of his mortality is that he must live with the decisions he makes. There is no revisiting the “superabundant past.” You decide the path you will take, and then you must find some way to be content.

“Old age isn’t a battle; old age is a massacre”(156). While the protagonist must grapple with the emotional repercussions of his actions, there is another aspect which contributes to the “massacre” that is old age. Philip Roth contrasts the power of decision possessed by the protagonist, a controllable aspect of life, with that which cannot be controlled: the physical deterioration of the human body. From an extremely young age the “everyman” suffers from physical illness, interrupted only briefly by periods of good health. The author masterfully differentiates the unavoidable from the controllable in order to demonstrate the paradox of the protagonist’s existence. The “everyman” cannot prevent his physical condition from failing, yet in the realm of the controllable, makes decisions which further defeat his potential for happiness.

But now it appeared that like any number of the elderly, he was in the process of
becoming less and less and would have to see his aimless days through to the end
as no more than what he was-the aimless days and the uncertain nights and the
impotently putting up with the physical deterioration and the terminal sadness and
the waiting and waiting for nothing.(161)

As seen previously, Roth uses repetition, along with polysyndeton in order to emphasize the enormity of the protagonist’s realization: his existence is absurd. The addition of conjunctions captures the “everyman’s” near hysteria at his rapidly approaching fate. The structure of the sentence mirrors how the protagonist views his existence: it progresses, gains momentum, builds upon itself, and amounts to anticlimactic nothingness. Roth asserts that all individuals, because they all face the same end and cannot control the proximity or nature of it, must seize that which they can control and create their life from their actions. The tragedy of the protagonist lies in his defeatist attitude; he is destroyed by his unremitting physical ailments, as well as his actions which ultimately result in his agonizing solitude. In presenting these two opposing forces, the controllable and the uncontrollable, Roth illustrates the dichotomy of existence. By creating a character who essentially lives the quintessential absurd existence, ridden with pending physical destruction and mistakes, Roth successfully captures characteristics of humanity which his readers can identify in themselves and perhaps rectify.

In the novel Everyman, Philip Roth addresses the "...oldest of self-delusions..."(103): that death exists merely at a distance. The protagonist personifies all humanity and therefore is not definitively identified, allowing Roth's readers to recognize their own qualities in this tragic figure. Roth embodies all humanity through the "everyman," who grows conscious of his own mortality only when his imminent death becomes a reality. In depicting the "everyman's" inability to control his physical illness and failure to obtain happiness through his decisions, Roth demonstrates the absurdity of existence which can only be assigned purpose through action.
(K.B. 2008)



American Pastoral By Philip Roth:

An Examination of The Question of Jewish Assimilation versus Separatism


[(Essay date 3 June 2008) In this discussion T.A. will highlight examples of the internal conflict within the main charecter of Philip Roth's American Pastoral and explore the nature of the struggle between embracing his cultural heritage and assimilating to his modern surroundings].

"When, in 2002, Philip Roth won the National Book Foundation's medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the most august lifetime achievement award he's likely to receive unless he's called to Stockholm for a Nobel Prize, he devoted his acceptance speech to a long and cranky argument about his right to consider himself an American writer rather than a Jewish writer." - Salon.com Review of Roth's The Plot Against America

Philip Roth is an author plagued by the futility of everyday life. At the core of his Pulitzer Prize winning novel American Pastoral is the idea of change in life, and more specifically the slow decay of life. Roth, a Jewish American, focusses the crux of his novel on broad and philosophical themes about life and human nature. Ancillary to the central theme, there exist a number of more pragmatic and personal issues, such as the issue of Jewish identity.

The novel's narrator, Nathan Zuckerman describes the contradictory nature of Newark, New Jersey's Jewish community which he describes as "want[ing] to fit in and stand out, who insist they are different and insist they are no different." Roth, throughout the novel and with properly afforded subtlety, raises the specter of discrimination and ethnic isolationism. The novel's Jewish community is centered within Newark and exists almost as a miniature nation unto itself. In describing the initial accomplishments of the protagonist, The Swede (an athletic Jewish male with a blonde gentile complexion) Roth presents the external world, the gentile world, as a realm of opportunity and success.

The Swede is the personification of assimilation. Where was the Jew in him? You couldn't find it and yet you knew it was ther He lacks both the physical appearance and common traits of a Jew. He is described as having an "unconscious oneness with America." The Swede dismissed Jewish customs and services, refusing to attend synagogue and disregards strict religious custom when he marries a Catholic woman, Dawn, and expresses surprise at the suggestion that she should convert. He expresses no interest in being part of a Jewish community. The very life he lives, as both a school sports hero and white-picket-fence family man is decidedly more American than it is Jewish. Yet, even for the Swede, there remains constant reminders of his place as an outsider to the gentile America he has come to embrace. When on a tour of his local area, he realizes that the traces and markings of the ancestors of his gentile friends are abundant while he has no American heritage to claim. And while the Swede attempts to take little notice of these subtle differences, the "problem" of his Jewishness is omnipresent. In fatherhood, with his family in crisis and his daughter a fugitive, The Swede harkens back to concerns his father expressed about him marrying a Catholic. His father warned that if they are raised half Catholic and half Jewish they will lose any sense of their identity and who they are. His daughter shows little interest in her heritage.

The most fundamental irony of Roth's examination of this problem through the Swede is that the Swede is a physical anomaly and thus, his very ability to assimilate into Gentile culture is an ability afforded to few other Jews. Roth's discussion of the issue and the ultimate downfall of the Swede is conciliatory of the fact that any abandonment of one's own past leads to an eventual degradation of one's self, and while assimilation grants opportunity, it is ultimately a destruction and suppression of one's true self.

(T.A. 08)



The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth:

An Investigation of Character Devlopment as the Sole Instrument of Plot

[(Essay date 8 June 2008) In the following essay K.B. discusses the effect of character development in Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer. K.B. explores the dynamic nature of the protagonist, Nathan Zuckerman, contrasted by the stagnant character of the young author's mentor, E.I Lonoff.)]



In Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, Nathan Zuckerman, as with nearly every protagonist of Roth's novels, faces internal conflict throughout the novel. The entirety of the novel takes place over the course of a day, in which Zuckerman experiences a shift in his emotions, from a disdainful son, bitter towards the urgings of his father, to a son desperate to retrieve his father's praise. Roth illustrates the change which occurs in Zuckerman primarily in his distinct contrast in characters. It is Roth's use of E.I. Lonoff as a foil character which truly reveals the nature of Nathan's conflict, establishing him as the dynamic character who admires Lonoff's stagnant existence but finds himself grappling for a solution to the conflict between his desire for creative freedom and the restraints of social decency.

Although The Ghost Writer spans the course of one evening and morning spent at the house of E.I. Lonoff, the main character experiences a distinct transformation during the duration of his visit. A main component of this transformation is his change in intended purpose. He arrives at the Lonoff residence seeking the approval and advice of his favorite writer, who he views as the potential replacement of a father figure due to a recent disagreement with his own father. Nathan states "...after two decades of a more or less unbroken amiable conversation, we had not been speaking for nearly five weeks now, and I was off and away seeking patriarchal validation elsewhere"(Roth 10). While Nathan's immeasurable admiration for Lonoff does not waver throughout the novel, the young author begins to realize the futility in his original intention. Roth demonstrates the struggle Nathan experiences through his juxtaposition of Nathan's asserted convictions and the manifestation of his conscience. While Nathan adamantly defends the short story which his father condemned(a story which he thought disgraced his Jewish heritage), his imagination's creation of scenarios to disprove his father's accusation contradicts his youthful pride. At the beginning of the novel Zuckerman meets the young Amy Bellete, a former student and potential past lover of Lonoff, and dreams of marrying her in order to become part of the Lonoff family. Roth demonstrates the change in Zuckerman when he again contemplates marrying Amy, this time in order to be accepted back into his own family. Roth depicts Nathan's somewhat regression in maturity in order to exemplify the change in his intentions. During this short span of time, Zuckerman embraces his isolation and condemnation from his family, asserting to his mother's pleas, "'I am on my own!'''(109). His regression in maturity lies in his imaginings of Amy Bellete, in a series of complicated scenarios, as none other than Anne Frank, who unknowing to the world, survived. Roth reveals Zuckerman's emotions through his use of these convoluted imaginings. Even after discovering that his suspicions are false, Nathan proceeds to believe and hope in them. "Oh marry me, Anne Frank, exonerate me before my outraged elders of this idiotic indictment! Heedless of Jewish feeling? Indifferent to Jewish survival? Brutish about their well-being? Who dares to accuse of such unthinking crimes the husband of Anne Frank!"(171). Although the very nature of Zuckerman's imaginings are childish and irrational, they serve as the young author's encounter with his internal conflict. In many of his novels, Philip Roth addresses the struggle many Jewish- Americans face, the question of how the oppression and suffering endured should affect their handling with current hardships, such as battling the daily stereotypes which Nathan's father claims his son's story "proves" in the eyes of a prejudice society. Nathan, while he attempts to deny it, struggles with this same question, which the reader becomes increasingly aware of through his imaginings. Nathan's "transformation" is in itself, paradoxical, because while his notion that Amy could be Anne Frank is immature, the realization of his cultural pride and his returning desire to prove himself to his family demonstrates his growth as a character. Through Amy's commentary of her struggles as a surviving Anne Frank, Nathan comes to terms with his own "demons" as a young Jewish artist. He, alongside Amy, questions if he has a "...responsibility to the dead?"(149) or an even greater responsibility to himself and the artistic voice which Lonoff had insisted he possessed. Roth demonstrates to his readers the dynamic nature of this character primarily through his establishment of a limited time frame and the rapid reversion of the protagonist's motives.

Philip Roth further develops the character of Nathan Zuckerman, not only in his use of the author's realization of his guilt, but through his juxtaposition of the young author and his mentor, E.I. Lonoff. Zuckerman, a writer who is at the beginning of his career and has yet to be truly discovered, bursts with hope for the future and infinite ambition. Lonoff, however, already an accomplished writer, worshipped worldwide, is bitter with his stagnant existence, resenting those who unnecessarily faun at his feet. Roth utilizes Lonoff as a foil character to Zuckerman in order to depict, perhaps the futility in Nathan's incredible awe and the necessity of his eventual realization. Lonoff, a man who has essentially imprisoned his wife who he refuses to leave despite his obvious attraction to Amy, is disgusted by his own existance, an existence which Zuckerman covets.

I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and turn it around again. Then I have
lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two
sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on the sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the
beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I'm frantic with boredom and a sense of waste.(17-18).

Roth captures Lonoff's perceived monotony of his life through his repetition of "Then I..." While Zuckerman aches to even be able to observe such a life, Lonoff is so discontent with his life that even he cannot assign importance to his daily routine. It is Lonoff's misery which necessitates Zuckerman's discovery of his inner struggle, of what will eventually lead him to address the guilt he thought would dissipate with his replacement father. Zuckerman still possesses the drive for happiness and success, while Lonoff cannot even bring himself to pursue the happiness which has practically been handed to him time after time. His wife volunteers to leave him, while Amy constantly talks of their potential life together, yet Lonoff prefers the stagnant routine which he hasn't been able to stray from his entire life. It is through the contrasting of these two characters that Roth dramatizes Nathan's transformation which occurs in one evening, compared to the continuation of the absurd existence of E.I. Lonoff.

Roth further emphasizes the change in Zuckerman in his depiction of Nathan's reversal in roles. Just as his father questions him at the bus station, imploring him to recognize the corruption present in the publication of his story, Nathan later questions Lonoff as he slowly becomes disenchanted with the author.
"This story isn't us, and what is worse, it isn't even you.You are a loving boy. I watched you like a hawk all day. I've watched you all your life. You are a good considerate young man. You are not somebody who writes this kind of story than pretends its the truth"(95).

"Oh, Father, is this so, were you the lover of this lovesick, worshipful, displaced daughter half your age? Knowing full well you'd never leave Hope? You succumbed too? Can that be? You?"(175). Nathan, like his father, questions an individual for whom he possessed only great esteem in disbelief that such actions could belong to them. Roth incorporates these parallel scenarios to perhaps highlight the new understanding of his father, whether subconsciously or not, Nathan acquires. It is Nathan's slight disillusionment with Lonoff which enables him to recognize the misery of his hero's existence and seek to mend his relationship with his father.

Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer is similar to Everyman in that its plot does not consist of action-packed scenes but rather is derived from the development of his characters. Roth's use of E.I. Lonoff as a foil character in juxtaposition to the young Zuckerman epitomizes the young author's encounter with his guilt and eventual acknowledgement of his connection with his Jewish heritage.
(K.B. 2008)



The Plot Against America By Philip Roth:

An Examination of Roth's Decision to Reframe the Context of History in Order to Further His Plot


[(Essay date 8 June 2008) In this examination, T.A. will consider the reasons for, and the negatives and benefits of author Philip Roth's decision to rewrite history in order to reframe the context of a story which was not necessarily dependent on historical revision for its own plausibility].

At its core, The Plot Against America is about the Roths, a small Jewish family in Newark, and their day to day struggle's with personal obstacles, common problems and the onslaught of religious discrimination. More specifically, the novel is about young Philip Roth, a child obsessed with collecting postage stamps and tormented by the daily traumas and trials of growing up. The novel's more broad (and more marketable) story line is about an alternate history in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated for the presidency in 1940 by darkhorse Republican candidate and former aviator Charles Lindbergh. The meshing of these two seemingly polar-opposite plot lines is curious, and seemingly justified by the joint theme of government affecting personal livelihood. Lindbergh, who in real life espoused isolationist and anti-Semitic ideals, uses his presidential power to ally the nation with Nazi Germany and gradually squeeze the rights and liberties of American Jews.

The effect of Roth's framework is evident on its face: it creates a symbolic vision of a presidential administration which persecutes the Jewish people and invades in upon their personal lives. The effectiveness of Roth's framework is questionable and at times unstable. The novel focusses rarely on the Lindbergh portion of the story, and with the exception of three paragraphs describing the Republican convention which eventually nominated Lindbergh almost no time at all is spent setting up the alternate history. Instead, the vast majority of the novel (every page, except for 3/4ths of one) focusses on either the coming-of-age of young Philip Roth, the Hellish life of Roth's crippled veteran relative or the day-to-day toils of his family at large.

The question then, that intuitive readers might draw, is "why?". After reading the novel, most readers will come away with a sense of the character, his life and his personal war to grow up and be happy. What they'll have a lesser sense of is the new America Roth created, and certainly what they'll have no sense of is why he created it. In interviews and articles, Roth asserts that the novel is about his own personal experience growing up in Newark and the real-life discrimination and obstacles he faced. So again: why? Why paint a different backdrop around a foreground which does not change? Certainly the novel would be as believe if FDR was still the president... and it is in that fact that Roth is truly profound.

By forcing the reader to see Philip Roth's life in the context of a Nazi-Sympathetic, Fascist-Leaning, Jewish-Hating America, Roth is forcing us to see America not only as he created it, but also as it truly was. The reframing tool accomplishes little in terms of advancing the story or changing the nature of a war and period of time that truly occurred, but it does provoke thought. Lindbergh's America is America as it was when it was FDR's America... for Roth and his family at least. The comment is that political power and social circumstance don't affect public conscience. Throughout the novel, Lindbergh is silent. This is representative of FDR's silence as well. No one, not real president nor the fake one, spoke out against injustice. That is the real plot against America.

(T.A. 08)