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The Spiritual Vagrants in the Wilderness of Identity

Author: LiuYing
Tutor: HouYanBin
School: Agricultural University of Hebei
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Philip Roth American Pastoral American Dream identity spiritual vagrant
CLC: H315.9
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2010
Downloads: 248
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Abstract


Philip Roth is one of the most influential contemporary Jewish American writers. Each of his novel makes a tremendous stir in American literature. Roth’s greatest concern is the Jews’identity problem. He listens to Jews’utterance, observes the details in their daily life, tries to know their perplexities living in the foreign country cultural crack, so that he can write the mid-class Jewish Americans’living conditions in his unique way, revealing these Jewish Americans’cultural identity crises. Philip Roth’s masterpiece American Pastoral (published in 1997) tells the story about the ups and downs of a Jewish family. The Swede’s family pursues the American dream persistently but loses the traditional Jewish identity. As a soul hunter, Roth spares no effort to explore in the crack of cultures. He parodies the American dream in the form of a“counter-pastoral”“American pastoral”, depicting some“spiritual vagrants”in the wilderness of identity.In the novel, the“American pastoral”in the real sense is“counter-pastoral”. Taking the inner cultural conflicts in a Jewish (Levov’s) family as the story’s clue, Roth narrates the American dream’s split of those mid-class Jews, and also presents the minority’s social status and circumstance in the certain historical and cultural background. In the process of merging into the American mainstream, the Jewish traditional culture is getting ever weaker, their beliefs face with crises, which lead to the collapse of their blind dreams. Roth dedicates himself completely to pondering on the Jews’belonging but to find they are just the spiritual vagrants in the wilderness of identity.This thesis consists of four parts. Chapter one gives a summary of Roth: the literature reviews of him; the national and international study situation; his major works, besides the thesis divides Roth’s writing into three periods. Then, it gives a brief introduction to American Pastoral.The second chapter synoptically presents the continuation and evolution of an eternal subject—“American dream”in American literature. Then it discusses the Americans dreams of different contemporary Jewish classes in American Pastoral.The third chapter deals with the protagonists’identity respectively in the angle of different classes: the assimilated Jew, the oppressed Jew, the materialist and the Narrator (Nathan). Then it explores the crises in Jewish Americans’family: paternal crises, matrimonial crises and fraternal crises. These crises aggravate those characters’identity problem, simultaneously, the family crises make their identity crises sharper.Chapter four discusses Jewish Americans’identity in the angle of neo-realism. Roth’s third creating period is neo-realistic writing. American Pastoral is his representative work in this period. The thesis also analyzes neo-realistic writing’s two main characteristics: returning to history and society and interfusion of realistic and post-modernistic writing skills; chapter four further analyzes the Jewish Americans’identity in these two aspects.

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