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The Plot Against America

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The Plot Against America  
Dust jacket of first U.S. edition
Author Philip Roth
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) alternate history
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date September 2004
Pages 400
ISBN 0224074539
OCLC Number 56804910

The Plot Against America is a novel by Philip Roth published in 2004. It is an alternate history in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh.

Plot introduction

The novel follows the fortunes of the Roth family during the Lindbergh presidency, as antisemitism becomes more accepted in American life and Jewish-American families like the Roths are persecuted on various levels. The narrator and central character in the novel is the young Philip, and the care with which his confusion and terror are rendered makes the novel as much about the mysteries of growing up as about American politics. Roth based his novel on the isolationist ideas espoused by Lindbergh in real life as a spokesman for the America First Committee and his own experiences growing up in Newark, New Jersey. The novel depicts the Weequahic section of Newark which includes Weequahic High School from which Roth graduated.

Inspiration for the novel

Roth has stated that the idea for the novel came to him while reading Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s autobiography, in which Schlesinger makes a comment that some of the more radical Republican senators of the day wanted Lindbergh to run against Roosevelt. The title appears to be taken from that of a communist pamphlet published in support of the campaign against Burton K. Wheeler's re-election to the U.S. Senate in 1946.

The novel depicts a United States in the 1940s that was antisemitic. Roth had written in his autobiography, The Facts, of the racial and antisemitic tensions that were a part of his childhood in Newark, New Jersey. Several times in that book he describes children in his neighborhood being set upon simply because they were Jewish.

Literary significance and criticism

Roth's novel was generally well-received. Jonathan Yardley of the The Washington Post, exploring the book's treatment of Lindbergh in some depth, calls the book "painfully moving" and a "genuinely American story."[1]

The New York Times review described the book as "a terrific political novel" as well as "sinister, vivid, dreamlike, preposterous and, at the same time, creepily plausible."[2]

Blake Morrison of The Guardian also offered high praise: "The Plot Against America creates its reality magisterially, in long, fluid sentences that carry you beyond scepticism and with a quotidian attentiveness to sights and sounds, tastes and smells, surnames and nicknames and brandnames — an accumulation of des petits faits vrais — that dissolves any residual disbelief."[3]

Writer Bill Kauffman of The American Conservative criticized its portrayal of increasing American antisemitism, in particular among Catholics, and for the nature of its fictional portrayals of real-life characters like Lindbergh, claiming it was "bigoted and libelous of the dead", as well as for its rushed ending, featuring a drastic and odd resolution to the political situation reminiscent he asserted of a deus ex machina.[4]

Many supporters and critics of the book alike took it as something of a roman à clef for or against the Bush administration and its policies[5], but though Roth was opposed to the Bush administration, he has denied such allegorical interpretations of his novel.[6]

In 2005, the novel won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History[7] and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction given by the Society of American Historians[8].

Historical figures

There are several historical figures depicted or mentioned in The Plot Against America:


See Also

Secondary Bibliography

  • Rossi, Umberto. “Philip Roth: Complotto contro l’America o complotto americano?”, Pulp Libri #54, Marzo-Aprile 2005, pp. 4-7.

External links


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