Racial Passing in Philip Roth's "The Human Stain" Book Review by smb490

Racial Passing in Philip Roth's "The Human Stain"
This paper provides an analysis of Philip Roth's novel "The Human Stain" as it illustrates racial passing, and bolsters arguments of racial binaries, individualism, self-definition, and the fractured post-modern condition.
# 119635 | 5,669 words | 26 sources | MLA | 2008 | US

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This paper analyzes and describes the novel "The Human Stain" by contemporary American writer Philip Roth, who describes the act of racial passing as self-empowerment and self-invention. The paper points out that the novel is loosely based on the life of Anatole Broyard, and is narrated by Jewish American and recurring Rothian narrator Nathan Zuckerman. The paper concludes by explaining that the novel strives to speak to the reality of socially constructed contemporary American identities by undermining racism structured upon black/white binaries, celebrating individualism and self-creation, and also recognizing the fractured post-modern condition.

From the Paper:

"At various points throughout the novel, the identity of the in-group clairvoyant and the dupe shifts drastically while the passer stays constant. At first it seems as though Zuckerman is a member of the in-group, for he is the narrator of Coleman's story and indeed the reader is duped into believing that Coleman is Jewish until chapter two. However, upon learning the secret of Coleman's pass and obtaining the knowledge that Zuckerman (the literary figure) is unaware, the reader becomes the in-group clairvoyant and Zuckerman the dupe. Yet at the same moment, the book that Zuckerman eventually authors about Coleman in the novel itself is entitled The Human Stain--if this book is that same that is being consumed by the reader as he or she discovers this fact, then indeed Zuckerman is once again the in-group clairvoyant and the reader assumes the role of the dupe. In the chaos of splitting identities and slipping roles that Roth creates as his novel unfolds, it is not important whether these identities correspond to static racialized subjectivities, but rather that these roles that we perceive as invariable are indeed in a state of constant fluctuation, reassignment, and reinvention."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • Bowser, Benjamin P. and Raymond G. Hunt, eds. Impacts of Racism on White Americans. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1996.
  • Brodkin, Karen. How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2002.
  • Broyard, Anatole. "Portrait of the Inauthentic Negro: How Prejudice Distorts the Victim's Personality." Commentary 10 (1950): 56-64.
  • Budick, Emily Miller. Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation. Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture. Ed. Eric Sundquist. New York: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Cite this Book Review:

APA Format

Racial Passing in Philip Roth's "The Human Stain" (2010, May 13) Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/book-review/racial-passing-in-philip-roth-the-human-stain-119635/

MLA Format

"Racial Passing in Philip Roth's "The Human Stain"" 13 May 2010. Web. 31 March. 2020. <https://www.academon.com/book-review/racial-passing-in-philip-roth-the-human-stain-119635/>