The Perils of Desire in Philip Roth’s Early Fiction

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In her article "The Perils of Desire in Roth's Early Fiction" Victoria Aarons posits that Philip Roth's first collection of stories Goodbye, Columbus is the prototype for a host of characters who emerge throughout his oeuvre: characters who are engaged as the inveterate Nathan Zuckerman insists, in "an exchange of existences" abandoning willingly "the artificial fiction" of an inherent, essential self." From the stories in Goodbye, Columbus to the "final" novels comprising the Nemesis tetralogy, Roth's characters perform a spectacle of selves engaged in the making of character. The making of character in Roth's fiction appears in two ways: 1) the developing of protagonists who emerge throughout the trajectory of Roth's extensive literary career and 2) each protagonist's individual psychic project of making himself his own favorite character. For Roth, character is all about motive, those oppositional and ambivalent impulses which drive people to perform acts of desperate self-assertion, all part of the masquerade of self-reinvention.

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Purdue University


West Lafayette, IN

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CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture