"The Curse Never Fell Upon Our Nation Till Now": History And Fear In Philip Roth's The Plot Against America
Brittain, Michael Lynn
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In The Plot Against America, Philip Roth questions the common perception of historic "inevitability" by creating a counter-factual history, placing himself and his childhood family into a fictional World War II America. Through the novel's imaginary political and historical events, Roth's alternate American history (in which Charles Lindbergh is President) creates a powerful sense of fear that permeates the novel. In this paper, I examine Roth's use of history in The Plot by exploring the novel's blurring of alternate history, dystopia, "imagined autobiography," bildungsroman, and Holocaust genres. I also examine how the narrator (literally/fictionally Roth) conducts in the novel a choir of competing narrative voices--part seven-year-old boy, part adult storyteller, part historian, part Jewish-American. Roth's use of competing discourses in The Plot, along with his blurring of historical/fictional boundaries, forces us (as readers) to consider/reconsider our own histories in a post-9/11 world.