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Motif of Tragedy in the Human Stain

Author HuangXinChuan
Tutor LinYuanFu
School Fujian Normal University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords Philip Roth The Human Stain Tragedy Arthur Miller Common Man Oedipus
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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As one of the most brilliant leading Jewish-American writers, Philip Roth excels at seizing the details of social life and merging the identity issues of the marginalized with the broader subjects in American history, culture, and society, which endows his work with uniquely rich thematic concerns that always invites exploration. The Human Stain is one of his remarkable achievements.Philip Roth’s fictions can be deciphered from different ways and literary critics have proposed various approaches to the interpretations about The Human Stain. This thesis seeks probe into the theme of tragedy in The Human Stain from the perspective of Arthur Miller’s view on tragedy, aiming at a fresh and sustained interpretation of this prominent novel.After a brief introduction to Philip Roth and The Human Stain, along with literature reviews about this novel both from home and abroad, this thesis focuses on Arthur Miller’s conceptualization on tragedy, and by briefly referencing classical theory of tragedy since Aristotle, explores Miller’s conviction that the common men are more suitable as the protagonist in a tragedy than kings and heroes as they can. shock contemporary readers with more than those superior monarchs. Through detailed textual reading, the thesis then discusses the tragic destiny of the main characters in The Human Stain, particularly Coleman’s oedipal tragedy. The comparison from different respects between Oedipus and Coleman’s tragedy illuminates various aspects contributing to his tragic destiny. The thesis argues, finally, that Philip Roth’s dramatization of tragedy in Coleman’s tragedy and in other characters implies important cultural critiques, which includes the vices of political correctness, the absurdity of identity politics, the frenzy of "persecuting spirit," and trauma effects of war.

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