Evelyn's Reviews > Indignation

Indignation by Philip Roth
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's review
Jun 25, 2010

liked it
Recommended for: people flying on airplanes or who need a quick vacation read
Read on June 24, 2010 , read count: 1

I enjoyed this book in a superficial, half-hearted kind of way. It made for a fun afternoon of reading and there were times when the writing was clever enough to put a big smile on my face. But in the long run there was not one likable character in the entire book, and I wondered why Roth made it that way. The protaganist started to annoy me first when he fantasizes about using a black friend to shock his parents and most of all when he seems to have no backbone or even definitive opinion on Olivia Hutton. He struck me as spineless, although I guess that was the point - that he lived his life in a constant state of apprehension? Nonetheless, it was unneccessary to flake-ify the Olivia character, I thought, and by not doing so the book would have had more depth and been more memorable.
I wonder about the significance of Marcus' atheism? and the ending? I almost can't tell if, with this novel, Roth is critiquing the status quo or endorsing it. I suppose he's noting some irony in resisting the status quo, that society creates a trap the universe is indifferent to... but I would almost call that an endorsement?
Nonetheless, I found the book very funny. This was the first I've read of Roth, and will be sure to pick up another of his if I feel like a quick easy read.

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Clif I think Olivia is a key character, presented as unbalanced in order to challenge Messner to question his own conception of normality as he struggles with his identity - this is in keeping with the "spineless" quality you mention. The son of a butcher that breaks spines every day - Messner has to grow one of his own.

He has no trouble taking a stand against those he sees opposing him (roommates, the Dean, etc.) but her unguarded openness is so unexpected - how is he to define himself in regard to her, someone he cannot reject outright except for her attempts to do herself (and not him) harm?

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