Indignation, By Philip Roth
Sunday 02 August 2009
Marcus is a young man who loves his hard-working father – he just can't live in the same house as him. He's a straight-A student who can't get on with his room-mates at college, so he keeps asking to be moved. He's the object of beautiful Olivia's attention, but doesn't know how to respond to a young woman who's more sexually experienced than he is.
Roth's ability to run the gamut of adolescent confusion and give it urgency and importance (instead of making fun of disproportionate teenage responses to minor crises) might at first appear the consequence of setting his story during the Korean War. Marcus is constantly worrying that if he fails his studies, he'll be called up and killed on the battlefield, just as his father is permanently full of fear at anything that might harm his son or lead him astray. But ironically enough, it's not the overhanging threat of war that gives this story its impetus.
Marcus's refusal to join college fraternities makes him more of an outsider, when already, as one of the few Jews on campus, he's outside the social norm. His refusal to be a part of the team comes to a head during an interrogation by the college dean, who wants to know why he prefers to be alone.
The American ideal of team-playing, more important than getting straight As (an ordering of priorities that Marcus finds incomprehensible) has been critiqued by Arthur Miller, among others, but Philip Roth's portrayal of that ideal as an inevitable need arising from living in a nation made up of immigrants, is sympathetic as well as damning.
While he resists romanticising the fate of the lone individual, Roth cannot let those in authority off the hook. Marcus is condemned to join in. This angry story of an angry young man, beautifully and simply told, is not easy to forget.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
- 3 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 How much sex should I be having?
The 1975 leave social-media after cryptic comic strip tweet hinting at possible break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Jules and Matisse used secret dog double for winning tightrope act
Netflix is testing out adverts
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Vote reveals Jules O'Dwyer beat Jamie Raven by just 2% despite using 'stunt dog double'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: 90 viewers complain to Ofcom about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing' dresses
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history