In Goodbye, Columbus, what is the climax and what the falling action?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climax of Roth's novella Goodbye Columbus occurs when Brenda invites Neil to Boston to celebrate the Jewish holiday of atonement, Rosh Hashanah, also the Jewish New Year. Brenda and Neil had been having intimate relations while he was visiting her parents home as a house guest over the summer. After Brenda and Neil check into a Boston hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Klugman, Brenda breaks the news to Neil that her mother had discovered her contraceptive and was deeply shocked. Brenda shows him two letters she has received, one from each parent, and tells him that she won't see him anymore. She tells him that she is ashamed to face her parents and will find it unbearable to continue to see him, especially since they have lost all esteem for Neil through this shocking discovery.

This event marks the climax, the point at which the final outcome of the story is set in motion. It is an emotional moment yet the emotion is more of personal suffering than overt, tearing emotion. Moreover it is the decisive moment when the conflict is resolved and the future predicted: the class divide has not been permanently breached and Neil and Brenda will not be a couple. As a result, Neil returns to the working-class area of Newark, New Jersey, and to his job at the public library, symbolic of his common roots. The falling action occurs when Neil wanders hopelessly around Harvard yard, catches his train, returns to Newark and gets there just in time to get to work at the library.

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Goodbye, Columbus

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