Indignation by Philip Roth is a tremendous report. A grim denunciation and perhaps also a tribute to a generation of young American soldiers killed in Korea, as a result of American intervention at that strategic point in the world, back in 1950, at the beginning of the Cold War.
Indignation Roth, is the clearest manifestation of the pathos of indignation against the ignominy of the war and its disastrous consequences, and causes that have led to a generation of Americans to participate in it, hence the clear source of title of the novel. All wrapped in the garb of universal literature. Which we know, Philip Roth’s expertise working with the great masters of the novel. We are dealing here with an author who manages the art of fiction in the widest range of levels, starting with the easiest, of course, unavoidable in any account, such as achieving the entertainment. First level at which remain today, unfortunately, the majority of his countrymen, and many others famous novelists, Philip Roth but passes without difficulty, crystallizing an Outrage able to recreate the most secret psychological structures of the characters described as also the history, place and circumstances where they move, reaching the level of the literary allegorical perfect.
Outrage is a story in first person singular. The speaker is the protagonist himself. Perhaps the alter ego of Roth himself, who we first met in other novels. But now Marcus is a young man only nineteen years old, ready to tell the core issues of their existence, as in Elegy, from the death. The temptation to confuse the character with the writer himself, in this novel, at times, it is very seductive. Some dates coincide with the protagonist, his descent Sephardic origins in Newark’s own Roth, possible action or relationship with a family member died in that horrific war in Korea …. However, we know that, for that matter, it matters little, but nothing. The novel is an artistic construction that while there may be specific connections like this with the reality biography of the author, in no way affect your ability as an art object itself.
Marcus’s father, according to the child, seems to have gone mad at the age of fifty years. There comes another reason for outrage, the inexplicable madness of adults, perhaps the product of too much experience of older men, astonished face of new customs, way of life of future generations, the generational clash increasingly abysmal between young and old. The inevitable gap caused by technology that removes now the father of the child in all latitudes, is undoubtedly one universal problem of this new century, and Philip Roth never ceases to indict him in his novels. That’s the relentless criticism of the father and that does not support the child. Messner old has been and still is, a hard worker, a laborious kosher butcher in Newark, New Jersey, who preserve the classic traditions of the Jewish world not only fish when the meat for consumption by the community, but also other moral behaviors entrenched in their view, and fears for the life of Marcus embedded in moral frivolity, not only the new world, but also in its multiple ways of perdition, underpinned by facilities lavished by modernity.
“You see, in life, the least misstep can have tragic consequences.” Messner contends the honest butcher, who idolizes as a father to his only son Bible. However, Marcus, beset by his father’s fatal obsession, will make every effort to get away from him, starting to study at the University of Winesburg, Ohio, more than five hundred miles from his native Newark. A privileged college, studying young moneyed classes, children of wealthy business and professional people, to which Marcus has access as a student excelling in all branches. And it is here in this university who will decide his fate, and perhaps where he will step feared by the father.
The recreation of the academic world of Winesburg, maintains the level of universal enough to connect the reader with this sophisticated world of young students from around the world. The classic compromises and disagreements between young people belonging to the same generation but different social backgrounds. Marcus will remain there an outstanding student, but contact with a girl named Olivia change or determine its fate. This is a young woman who has lived a life very different from yours, of divorced parents, able to shock their parents and even Marcus himself due to a traumatic mental health, presumably as a result of parental divorce. Something similar will happen to his roommates, whom the young man from Newark end away. Philip Roth manages also here to challenge from within the diegesis, the morale of those young Americans of that time, including, by the way, Marcus Messner’s own, subject to Jewish tradition, although not manifest religious bond whatsoever. Moreover, to deny the existence of God very early shielded by the theories of Bertrand Russell, which wields the young Marcus and recites a religious-like fervor in a private conversation held with the Dean about his lack of ability adaptation, which has been summoned to his office.
The Jewish question is a recurring motif in the works of Philip Roth. Perhaps none of his work beyond the question of Jewish origins of his characters, which detects and asks to what extent they would affect the morale of the people, and adjustment or maladjustment to the new generations of Americans who dispense such roots. Formed in a strict moral, young Marcus still loathes the minimum requirements of the Christian religion Wisnesburg, namely the obligation to attend a number of religious lectures by the pretext of safeguarding the moral precepts of the community university.
Values, however, Marcus is violating the university students belonging to Christian communities in a way perhaps more insolent than those abominations, giving space and reason to inoculate the moral double standard that destroys or break the psychology of individuals.
The lack of tolerance for Marcus, his honesty or no room for such a double standard to accept their obligations to students, which circumvent the ablest know in the most abject, paying others attending such conferences, will be the trigger that ultimately will lead to ruin, like many other young people of the same generation that once expelled from his university duties, they must form ranks in the army to go fight in Korea, forming the invading forces United States in one country and in reality all the more absurd and unknown as lived in Winesburg. The fear of the father of Marcus, manifested in the decision: “It is that, in life, the smallest misstep can have tragic consequences.” Just being here a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Philip Roth’s novel, ends and comprising a concrete historical reality that challenges the scenes of the massacre of young Americans in Korea, without missing any of the records that possibly involved a generation scarred by age with their constitutional duties, individual and masterfully profiled from the life of a young Marcus Messner, son of a noble Nedward butcher. Psychological penetration of character and its environment, allows the reader to listen to the soul of the most powerful nation in the world, why not exempt from that indignation against interventionist policy that has hurt many and full of anguish. Perhaps the greatest fear of the father of Marcus was not exactly the touch and contact with other young libertines those belonging to future generations of America, but rather the inescapable possibility that his son, his only and beloved son, was in some point to combat in Korea by the United States.
Miguel de Loyola – Santiago de Chile – December 2010.