American Pastoral

Zuckerman the Unreliable 12th Grade

American Pastoral is narrated by Philip Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman, a friend and admirer of the Levovs, in particular of Seymour “The Swede” Levov. Zuckerman tells the story of The Swede’s tragic fall from youthful perfection due to his daughter’s act of terrorism in protest of the Vietnam War. However, if Zuckerman is truly a friend and peer of the Swede, Zuckerman's seemingly omniscient knowledge of the Swede's private affairs and liaisons proves that Zuckerman simply made up much of the Swede’s exciting life.

From an early age, Zuckerman is infatuated with the perfection of the Swede and his embodiment of the American Dream. When the Swede calls Zuckerman “Skip,” Zuckerman tells the reader, “I was thrilled. I blushed, I was thrilled,” which clearly denotes how emotionally charged Zuckerman was after being given a fairly innocent and common nickname. However, the tricolon of terse first-person verbs and the repetition of “I was thrilled,” emphasizes that this was a very personal moment for Zuckerman and that the “secret, personal link” they apparently shared had an immediate, deep effect. This obsession and hyperbolic reaction to an ordinary scene suggests that Zuckerman is blindly infatuated with the Swede, a fact which might...

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