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A Study of the Human Stain from the Perspective of Fromm’s Humanistic Theory

Author SangXiaoYan
Tutor GaoJiHai
School Henan University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Philip Roth The Human Stain Erich Fromm humanism
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
Downloads 135
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The Human Stain is the contribution of contemporary American writer Philip Roth in2000which completes his splendid trilogy that begins with American Pastoral (1997) and IMarried a Communist (1998). It is an exquisite and profound novel, which tells the tragicstory of a college professor Coleman Silk, a black man who pretends to be white so as topursue a better life development. The novel is well accepted and is awarded PEN/FaulknerAward in2001. It is also adapted into a film of the same name in2003starring AnthonyHopkins and Nicole Kidman.Critics and scholars abroad and at home have studied The Human Stain from variousperspectives, such as theme analysis, cultural criticism, intertextual study, writing techniquesand so on, but few have studied this novel from the perspective of man’s living situations. Thenovel is set at Athena College, which in fact is the miniature of American society. People wholive in this environment encounter with various living predicaments, which expresses Roth’sconcern with the living situations of human being.The thesis attempts to analyze The Human Stain from the perspective of Erich Fromm’shumanistic theory. It aims to analyze the wretched living situations of the main characters inthis novel, explore the causes for their living plights and search the salvations of modern man.The paper falls into three sections apart from introduction and conclusion.Introduction gives a general introduction to Philip Roth and his literary accomplishments,The Human Stain, literature review and the significance of this thesis. Then, Fromm’shumanistic theory is presented in brief. According to Fromm, the living situation of humanbeing is a unique matter in nature. He takes human nature as the starting point of hishumanism. With the rapid development of capitalism, escape from freedom and alienation become the typical living predicaments of modern people. Moreover, only through creativelove can man find a way out of the predicaments.Chapter One provides a detailed analysis for the wretched living situations of the maincharacters in this novel, namely escape from freedom and alienation, which are very typical.The freedom they pursue is negative freedom, which means to gain freedom only by gettingrid of external bondage without a correct life orientation. The accompanying pressure andburden bring them lots of sufferings. Their life turns out to be perfect and prosperous on thesurface, but to the core, it is oppressing. They have to suffer from mental alienation.Chapter Two comes up with the causes for the paradoxical living situations from socialand personal aspects. Man is social animal and can not exist without the social environment.In this novel, racial discrimination, political correctness, persecuting spirit and the impact ofthe Vietnam War deepen the degree of man’s predicaments. At the same time, variousconflicts come into being due to the common living situation of human being, which lead todifferent psychological needs of people. People would suffer a lot if their basic needs are notsatisfied or are satisfied through wrong way.Chapter Three discusses the salvations of the main characters. According to Roth, deathis a thorough and ultimate salvation for the main characters in this novel because it simplifieseverything, purifies everything, and is also a form of self-transcendence. Coleman Silk andFaunia Farley end their lives in flowing river, which shows Roth’s hope on purification of life.At the same time, a harmonious relationship between man and nature help people gain mentalsalvation. Lester Farley obtains inner peace in nature. Besides, love is the final salvation formodern people’s mental crisis.In the conclusion part, a summary is made based on the above analysis. The Human Stainexpresses Roth’s ultimate concern over human nature and the destiny of human beings. Heinsists on moral values in an age of materialism and has faith in salvations of modern man. The humanistic ideas in this novel heighten Roth’s thoughts on human nature and areinstructive to modern people.

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