Philip Roth

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Ideas needed for paper: You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings I am having difficulty finding adequate material to cover Philip Roth's short story, "You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings." I would certainly appreciate some help. I am tasked with writing a two page short criticism on this story, and am unsure which direction to take it in. For some reason, I'm having difficulty coming up with a main idea and thesis points for this work. Thank you for any and all help.

Expert Answers

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To determine the main idea and message, think abot what the work made you think about. What was in your head when you finished reading it? How did the story and characters affect you? Why do you think that story had that effect? This is the simplest way to approach the finding of the theme. You are writing your own criticism, so you need to begin with your reactions.
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I have not read this story, but I have included a link here at enotes that may help you, as well as a quote from that page of criticism here:

 Each of Roth's stories features unlikely heroes, who find themselves trapped within the social constraints of their immediate environment, usually the family, religion, or American society in general.

Who is the hero in the story?  How is he more American than Jewish? How is he trapped, and how is this significant to the character's purpose?  Is there any dark humor?  If so, what is it?

Remember that if you have to ask if something is a symbol, it probably is.  What does it represent to you?  Symbol is always a good place to start with analysis. 

Also, find the themes in a piece of work by stating: _________ (title of work) is a story about ___________( first thing that pops in your head).  Usually there are many themes in a story, but you can structure a paper on how the theme is reinforced throughout the work.

Good Luck!



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