The Plot Against America

by Philip Roth
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Comment on the symbolism in The Plot Against America.

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In this excellent novel, in which Roth reimagines the history of America in the 1930s and in the lead up to World War II, one of the most important symbols is the election of Lindbergh as US President. This is used by Roth as a symbol of the unpredictable nature...

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In this excellent novel, in which Roth reimagines the history of America in the 1930s and in the lead up to World War II, one of the most important symbols is the election of Lindbergh as US President. This is used by Roth as a symbol of the unpredictable nature of history, and how even one event can have such a massive impact on the future and on millions of lives. Note what the narrator thinks after Lindbergh is elected and what he concludes about history as a result:

And as Lindbergh's election couldn't have made clearer to me, the unfolding of the unforeseen was everything. Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as "History," harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.

The novel, through positing a very different "history," focuses on "the terror of the unforeseen" and moves history from being a process that is nothing more than "inevitable" and transforms it into an unsettling, dynamic and disturbing development that the narrator describes correctly as the "relentless unforeseen." Lindbergh's election, and what it represents through shifting America towards being more sympathetic to Hitler and the Nazis and his anti-Jew ideology, is thus a symbol of the unpredictable nature of history and how nothing is ever fully predictable.

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