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The Art of Irony in Philip Roth’s American Pastoral

Author JiangYuJiao
Tutor ChenRuiHong
School Nanjing Normal University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords Philip Roth American Pastoral irony
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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As an American writer in the20th century, Philip Roth is a serious observer and also an intellectual who has a very strong sense of mission to society. In American Pastoral, Roth combines the Jewish identity with American history and culture, and shapes typical contemporary American Jewish images to show the tragedy of disillusionment of the American dream. Irony is still an incisive weapon for him to reflect the reality and analyze the fate of the characters.In American Pastoral, the successful use of irony is firstly shown in language. Roth penetrates irony to the language of character and narrative, and portrays meticulously and clearly in regarding verbal irony as a rhetorical device. The art of verbal irony plays a very important role in foiling characters and deepening the theme. Especially in shaping characters, by contradicting the surface meaning and the true meaning of the language, Roth highlights the complexity of characters and tragedy factors of their fates.Secondly, the irony art of American pastoral is also reflected in the situational irony, which extends irony of language to some relatively independent, complete plots and scenes, to pursue the overall ironic effect in a specific context. The development of plot is beyond readers’imagination and the expectation of characters contrasts with real-life situation. By those two ways, Roth shows the development process of the fate of characters, and expresses his concern ponder and critique of reality.Parody is another more macro form of irony art in American Pastoral. Roth applies a kind of grand and exalted structure in the Bible’Genesis and the epic Paradise Lost, to narrate the story of paradise lost in ordinary American Jews, and constitutes a tension between modern narrative content with traditional narrative form. At the same time,he points out the gap between myth and reality to express his profound thinking and anxiety for the Jews, the contemporary America, or the living circumstances of humanity. In his novel, hidden in the beautiful representation of love is a discordant state of marriage relationship which is difficult to coordinate. Roth depicts the love dilemma of modern "Adam"(Swede) and "Eve"(Down), which displays that the traditional love and marriage which were beautiful and holy has long become unrecognizable in contemporary America. At the same time, through the parody of pastoral, Roth creates American Pastoral a wonderful version of the anti-pastoral narrative.In the contrast and thinking for ideal and degeneration,"pastoral" and "anti-pastoral", Roth places his concern and tireless exploration of race and personal fate, as well as his sharp criticism and deep reflection on history and culture of times.Roth uses irony art in the creation of American Pastoral excellently, profoundly reproducing the survival status and fate trajectory of American Jewish immigrants, and showing his deep thinking on a series of serious problems of contemporary America, then he establishes his status in contemporary American literature, and wins a large number of readers therefore.

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