In the last scene in American Pastoral, did Merry really show up at the house and inform her grandfather that she killed four people?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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American Pastoral is a 1997 novel by Philip Roth about a man named Seymour Levov whose cultural identity clashes with his ambition and the reality around him.

Near the end of the book, Seymour is hosting his parents and some friends for a dinner, and while in the kitchen he hears a commotion from the dining room. He immediately thinks that it is his estranged domestic terrorist daughter, Merry, who bombed a post office, coming in and admitting her crime:

[Seymour] understood instantaneously what was happening. Merry had appeared in her veil! And told her grandfather that the death toll was four!

Seymour is both horrified that this stain on his family's reputation will be widely known, and relieved that he no longer has to keep the secret alone. However, when he reenters the dining room, he discovers:

...Jessie Orcutt, seated before a half-empty dessert plate... holding in her hand a fork whose tines were tipped red with blood.
Because Mrs. Orcutt would not eat, the girl said, Mr. Levov had started to feed Mrs. Orcutt the pie himself, a bite at a time.
After he had fed her almost all of one whole slice of the strawberry-rhubarb pie, she had said, "I feed Jessie," and he was so happy, so please with her, he laughed and handed over the fork, and she had gone right for his eye.
(Roth, American Pastoral, Google Books)

Jessie Orcutt was extremely drunk and stabbed Seymour's father with the fork. However, in his guilt and shame, Seymour ascribed the commotion to his daughter and her crime, not waiting to see the actual cause. He cannot see past his own problems and ultimately is relieved that the problem was only his father being almost blinded, as long as it does not involve his daughter.

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jianacone | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Hmmmm...well, I do accept that the daughter was not there, but the idea that the Swede cannot see beyond his own problems and is RELIEVED that the situation is only his father being almost blinded is a bit too much "interpretation."  But thanks!  (The whole stabbing thing is a bit of a stretch, actually...drunk or not!)

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