Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Discuss some of the different ways Roth's characters coped or contended with this “assault” on their country and their lives.


Evelyn said...

I was struck by how silence and sound became the means for coping or contending in this book. The Roth’s neighbors who fled to Canada did so quietly rather than protest their loss of rights. The Wishnow family, besieged by terrible misfortune, kept its muted head down all the way to near total extinction, as if they were concentration camp victims. Bess, Philip’s mother, was apt to be silent in public, especially when confronted with discrimination during the family vacation. Mr. Taylor, the tour guide, kept his own counsel through embarrassing scene after scene in Washington, D.C., until he finally stood up to stop an impending assault, crying, “That is enough!” By giving voice to decency, he allowed the cafeteria owners to snap out of their inaction and protect the Roths.

The sounds of radios at night and the cries of Weequahic neighbors despairing over Lindbergh’s nomination provided effective punctuation points in this narrative. National figures known for their artful or sharp use of words, such as F.D.R., Walter Winchell, and Fiorello La Guardia, gave voice to the sense of protest and outrage over newly-distorted American values. The one character who used his voice relentlessly and fearlessly was Herman Roth, the father. He quickly attracted the offensive and ghastly insult, “loudmouth Jew,” in the heart of America’s capitol, no less, by exercising his right to speak his mind. Herman’s words of love for his country and admiration for American history, along with his quick apprehension of the madness which had suddenly taken over America, were the sounds of brave patriotism personified.

Susan said...

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Martin Luther King

Pat Kennedy-Grant said...

I think that people contend with assault by trying to avoid it even when it is happening. Most people feel that to confront it may be throwing gasoline on a fire. We see that over and over by the need to fit in to go along to rationalize the reduction of rights the hope that things will self correct. It is very hard to speak out, to stand up and make noise. When you do you put yourself out there maybe alone to take the hit and risk all that is safe and "normal" and comfortable. You must
risk the "American Dream" to attain the american dream.