The Plot Against America

by Philip Roth

Start Free Trial

Who are the main characters in The Plot Against America?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Roth's alternate history novel includes a number of real-life historical figures, most of whom are accurately presented, but one who is shown as quite different from his actual beliefs and actions. Roth also included his own family as characters, imagining them growing up in this alternate reality.

Charles Lindbergh

The most famous and accomplished aviator in US history was also a believer in anti Semitism, white supremacy, and eugenics. In real life, Lindbergh even carried out a bizarre personal experiment of having children with half a dozen women in the name of improving the white race. The novel imagines him signing non aggression pacts with Germany and Japan and then disappearing mysteriously, with his vice president becoming dictatorial.

Burton Wheeler

Governor of and then Senator from Montana, Wheeler was a progressive who supported civil rights, labor rights, and unions and was opposed to war, censorship, and martial law. Roth's novel bizarrely imagines him as an opportunist Vice President who imposes martial law and removes Jews to the west of the US.

Henry Ford

The auto maker was the most dedicated anti-Semite in the US in the 1930s. He publicly praised Hitler, was awarded a medal by him, and gave him a Sieg Heil salute. Ford used his factories to recruit Nazis and others on the far right, and he used his fortune to publish the Dearborn Independent, which was devoted entirely to promoting hatred of Jews. Everyone who bought a Ford received a free subscription to the paper. In Roth's novel, he becomes Secretary of the Interior.

Roth's novel also includes broadcaster Walter Winchell, Mayor of New York Fiorello Laguardia, and prominent Jewish leaders Bernard Baruch and Henry Morgenthau. All three were Democratic Party leaders in real life, but Roth's novel depicts them as imprisoned by Wheeler.

Roth re-imagines himself as a child at the time, his relatives and neighbors either removed to the west or fleeing to Canada to avoid the waves of anti-Semitic rioting in the US. The novel ends with Franklin Roosevelt elected in 1944 after Japan bombs Pearl Harbor—an ironic but unlikely outcome.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Phillip Roth's novel, "The Plot Against America" is a compelling novel of alternative history.  The setting is era of Franklin Roosevelt, but instead of FDR becoming president, prior to WWII, Charles Lindbergh is elected.  Lindbergh was a great pilot for the United States, but he was also an isolationist and anti-Semitic.  The novel is centered around this specific era in history and Roth incorporates his family as the main characters with the premise of what happens if Lindbergh is elected President and forms a friendly relationship between Hitler's Germany and the US.

The main characters are Herman and Besse Roth, Phillip who is nine years old in the novel, Sandy Roth who is Phillip's older brother as well as their Jewish neighbors. 

"Roth brings in many historical characters: Father Coughlin, the extremist Catholic priest; Walter Winchell, the Jewish newspaper reporter Lindbergh; the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop; Fiorello La Guardia; and many others."

However, the main characters are the Roth family, their neighbors and extended family.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial