Philip Roth- writer of Defender of the Faith Essay

Philip Milton Roth was born on March 19, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey to a lower class middle-class Jewish Family novels and made it the scenes there. There are certain stories that he wrote which talks about his family members and his own life as well. His father was an insurance of Austro-Hungarian stock. When he wrote Patrimony in 1991, he wrote this for his dad who is still in his early eighties but in that particular story he portrayed his father as an eighty-six year old who suffered from a brain tumor.

He loves his family so much. And that particular novel won the National critics Circle award in 1992.(Bloom, 2003)

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Experience is the best teacher and those experiences should be put into words to produce one magnificent work that will mirror the past. An excerpt from one of his book says “Between first discovering the Newark Bears and the Brooklyn Dodgers at seven or eight and first looking into Conrad’s Lord Jim at age eighteen, I had done some growing up.

I am only saying that my discovery of literature, and fiction particularly, and the ‘love affair’ – to some degree hopeless, but still earnest – that has ensued, derives in part from this childhood infatuation with baseball.

Or, more accurately perhaps, baseball – with its lore and legends, its cultural power, its seasonal associations, its native authenticity, its simple rules and transparent strategies, its longueurs and thrills, its spaciousness, its suspensefulness, its heroics, its nuances, its lingo, its ‘characters’, its peculiarly hypnotic tedium, its mythic transformation of the immediate – was the literature of my boyhood.” (Roth in ‘My Baseball Years’, from Reading Myself and Others, 1975) Here we can say that the place he grew up and the experiences made him what he really is and clearly shows the readers what kind of childhood he has.

He attended Rutgers university from 1950-51 then transferred to Bucknell university where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude with a major in English in 1954. Then he studied at the University of Chicago where he receives his M.A. in English then in 1955 he joined the army but sooner discharged because of a back injury.

He then continues his study at Chicago and worked there from 1955 to 1957 as an English teacher. He then dropped out from the Ph.D. program in 1959 and started to write film reviews for the New Republic. Also in that year Goodbye Columbus won the National Book Award and was made into film here it was based on a family of a middle-class Jewish which clearly shows the author’s technique that is experience based and observations about the Jewish way of living Roth is fascinated by the idea of Jews behaving badly, but for him the physical deviance is sexual. He undermines the icon of the mensch, the Jewish good-boy (buzzle.com).

Portnoy’s complaint is also his work which became the number one best seller in 1969 and made a turning point in his career. Here Portnoy’s approach to hedonistic Western culture is ironic. This work of Roth for most readers finds it offensive because of the sex scenes and the presentation of Jewish Mother was criticized. (Bloom, 2003)

Jewishness is Roth’s major territory in examining American culture. Roth has more ironic and characterized as “less loving” views on Jews’ life. The readers can identify the writer with the obsession on fictional characters. In his works he increasingly wrestled problems of identity. Sometimes, he views his own life as part of his fiction. In his work The Plot against America (2004) an alternate history in which the famous pilot Charles Lindberg is the 33rd president of the Fascist U.S Philip Roth is one of the characters suffering from his Jewish Background.

When he experienced separation from his wife whom he got married in 1990 distinguished actress Claire Bloom, their relationship wayback 1970 was ended in 1996 and made his wife publish a book for him entitled Leaving a Doll’s House. We can see here that even his wife is using experience as a good source of thoughts and ideas in writing a book to clearly express one’s emotion and point of views.(Bloom 2003)

In his work Defender of the Faith (1959) the social and critical context shows us the passion of Philip Roth for his works. Here Roth shows us two stories at the same time, first is the story of Marx’s recovery from war experiences and the other is his conflict with Grossbart. The author explores the struggle one man goes through in order to discover which value outweigh others. Marx is in a dilemma which should be first, a good sergeant, a good Jew or a good human being. As the story progresses, Roth allows us glimpses into Marx’s recovery: the parade ground at dusk evokes childhood memories that reach deep into his heart to touch him; later, he begins to send for law school catalogs and to write old girlfriends. (ftp.ccccd.edu)

From here we can see points of the author about the conflict between Marx and Grossbart. Although they are both Jews, Grossbart is trying to get a special consideration and privilege. What is difficult for Marx is that Grossbart raises questions that the army at that time never considers. Like why is it that Jews don’t go worship on their Sabbath. Then Marx just realizes that Grossbart is not really a serious Jew.

He just wants to manipulate the system which on the later part made Marx fight for his own sake. We can see that this work of Roth is full of complex irony. Sgt. Marx is the defender of faith which in fact should suggest a staunch religious champion, but as far as Marxs role in the story he does it so against his will and against his intention but what made him motivated is to have an equal and fair treatment to all his men and not to be partial to Jews.where unwillingly he became defender of faith to Grossbart.

At the end of the story, however, when Marx has Grossbart’s orders changed to the Pacific, the irony is that he becomes most truly a defender of his faith when he seems to be turning against it. “You call this watching out for me what you did?” asks Grossbart. “No,” answers Marx. “For all of us.”

The cause of the whole Jewish faith is set back when Jews like Grossbart get special favors for themselves, for other people will mistakenly attribute Grossbart’s objectionable qualities to the Jewish people as a whole. (It’s called “stereotyping.”) Thus Marx is unwillingly a “defender of the faith” when he helps his fellow Jew, yet he becomes truly a defender of the faith when he turns against him (ftp.ccccd.edu).

Roth justifies his social context about Jews in this story and made many people realize what the term “Defender of the faith” really means.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold “Blooms Modern Critical Views” Chelsea House Publishers,
Defenders of the faith <http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/7-5-2002-21869.asp>
Notes: “Defender of the Faith”by Philip Roth
<http://ftp.ccccd.edu/mtolleson/2328online/2328notesdefender.htm>
Roth, Philip “My Baseball Years” from “Reading Myself and Others Book”, New York Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975

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