The Fall of the Ideal American in American Pastoral Essay

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It is not so much that Philip Roth disagrees with the concept of the American dream; he simply does not wish to buy into the myth of it all. In American Pastoral Roth laments the loss of innocence, as exemplified by both Seymour Levov, the protagonist, and Nathan Zuckerman, the narrator. Both grew up in an idyllic Jewish Newark neighborhood, both being the sons of Jewish parents. The separation of their commonality came at a young age, when Zuckerman began to idolize the golden boy of the neighborhood – Seymour “Swede” Levov, born blond haired and blue eyed, and representing everything that a young, Jewish boy would want in a local hero. It is through the narrator’s eyes that we see both the rise and fall of a Jewish family in America,…show more content…
Seymour eventually moved his family out of the city and into Old Rimrock, where “all of America lay at their door” (310). It was the realization of the “American Pastoral” concept, one which gave Seymour the feeling of accomplishment and success, the typical archetype of the American dream. Unfortunately, the peace that was on the surface would boil over in due time. Merry Levov, Seymour’s daughter, would be the cause. She was described as an all A student, setting “very high standards for herself” (171) and continuing on in the striving tradition of her family. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment of her loss of innocence, but eventually Merry would be accused of becoming a leftist radical, of bombing Old Rimrock’s general store, and of murdering Dr. Fred Conlon. The Swede’s dream was now interrupted by both the politics of the age, but also the violent acts of his daughter. He lamented, wondering why Merry had become the “angriest kid in America” (279) and most likely wondering how his actions had potentially led to it. The Grandfather may have alluded to the changing zeitgeist of American society, albeit with the change in his business. He points out that “the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the arrival of the miniskirt … was the death knell for the ladies’ dress glove” (349). More importantly, the disillusionment of that generation, living through the Vietnam War, would bring about the extreme

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