THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA

Philip Roth

In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American his­tory. In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected president. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial “under­standing” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism. For one boy growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America—and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.

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In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American his­tory. In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected president. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial “under­standing” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism. For one boy growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America—and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.

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  • Vintage Books
  • Paperback
  • September 2005
  • 416 Pages
  • 9781400079490

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About Philip Roth

In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Pas­sos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Praise

“A terrific political novel . . . sinister, vivid, dreamlike . . . creepily plau­sible. . . . You turn the pages, astonished and frightened.” —The New York Times Book Review

Discussion Questions

In what ways does The Plot Against America differ from conventional historical fiction? What effects does Roth achieve by blending personal history, historical fact, and an alternative history?

The novel begins “Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.” With this sentence Roth establishes that his story is being told from an adult point of view by an adult narrator who is remembering what befell his family, over sixty years earlier, when he was a boy between the ages of seven and nine. Why else does Roth open the novel this way? What role does fear play throughout the book?

Herman Roth asserts, “History is everything that happens everywhere. Even here in Newark. Even here on Summit Avenue. Even what hap­pens in this house to an ordinary man—that’ll be history too someday.” How does this conception of history differ from traditional definitions? In what ways does the novel support this claim? How is the history of the Roth family relevant to the history of America?

Observing his mother’s anguished confusion, Philip discovers that “one could do nothing right without also doing something wrong.” Where in the novel does the attempt to do something right also result in doing something wrong? What is Roth suggesting here about the moral com­plexities of actions and their consequences?

When Herman Roth is explaining the deals Hitler has made with Lind­bergh, Roth comments, “The pressure of what was happening was accelerating everyone’s education, my own included.” What is Philip learning? In what ways is history robbing him of a normal childhood? Why does he want to run away?

Much is at stake in The Plot Against America—the fate of America’s Jews, the larger fate of Europe and indeed of Western civilization, but also how America will define itself. What does the novel suggest about what it means to be an American, and to be a Jewish American?  How are the Roths a throughly American family?