Philip Roth American Literature Analysis
Often called a psychological realist by literary critics, Roth uses a variety of techniques in his fiction that make it difficult to classify his work under only one category. His early stories and novels, including Goodbye, Columbus, Letting Go, and When She Was Good (1967), were heavily influenced by the great nineteenth century psychological realists such as Henry James and Gustave Flaubert and by later ones such as Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson. Portnoy’s Complaint, however, while drawing for its themes and structure upon therapeutic psychoanalysis, represents a breakthrough to new forms of fiction. Since then, Roth has written satire, such as Our Gang (Starring Tricky and His Friends) (1971), fantasy (The Great American Novel), Bildungsroman(the Zuckerman Bound trilogy, 1985), and other types of fiction that demonstrate his versatility and originality as a writer.
Roth has also been called a social critic, and he has definitely earned the title. Taking on the conservative Jewish establishment in both his fiction and nonfiction, he exposes the foibles, coarseness, hypocrisies, and materialism of middle-class Jewish families, as in his portrayal of the Patimkin clan in Goodbye, Columbus. At the same time, he shows the intensity, closeness, and warmth that are also part of their lives. Attacked for his story “Epstein,” in which a decent, hardworking Jewish...
(The entire section is 8517 words.)
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