Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Appearance Versus Reality in Three Contemporary American Novels College

Appearance versus reality is a major theme of contemporary American fiction. The characters of American Pastoral, We Were the Mulvaneys, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf may appear to be living one way, or portray a strong public face, but the reality of their lives contradicts the appearance that they adopt.

Philip Roth creates an almost perfect and idealistic character, Swede, in his novel American Pastoral. The novel opens with Nathan Zuckerman and his high school reunion. As Zuckerman recalls his high school years he remembers Seymour Levov, or Swede, who was the picture of perfection. Swede was one of Zuckerman’s older brothers and someone to look up to and idealize. Swede was a star athlete, loved by all, successful in all that he attempted. As far as anyone could see Swede’s life was sure to be a success. After graduating from college Seymour, a Jew, married a Catholic woman and former Miss New Jersey. Swede had it all. In 1985 Zuckerman’s childhood model connected with him and asked to meet up. Zuckerman and Levov grabbed dinner in New York where Zuckerman had expected Levov to divulge his grief over the death of his father. Instead, most of the dinner was spent discussing Zuckerman’s home life. Swede wall a wall of...

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