Tina Ye's Reviews > Indignation

Indignation by Philip Roth
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's review
Mar 06, 09

Recommended for: people who like coming-of-age stories with modern tragic heroes
Read in March, 2009, read count: 1

This is my first Philip Roth book, lent to me by my boss who loved it. First of all, I would like to say that Roth's prose is refreshingly frank and largely metaphor-free, yay! Overall the book was very straightforward, expounding upon the theme "actions can have unintended consequences," which is not exactly a rare and groundbreaking idea in the world of fictional narratives. Nevertheless I had a good time reading it and somehow really sympathized with his honest, bewildered young character who (I don't know if I should be worried about this or not) kind of reminds me of myself at moments.

This book is the story of Mark Messner, hardworking butcher's son with limitless integrity, who finds himself grown up, going to a conservative college, and bemusedly confronting one affront to his dignity after another. It is told in the first person in light-footed, plain language. It's a quick read but not a lighthearted one, as it is set in a mid-century American landscape where religious prejudice, political intolerance, attempted suicide, student unrest, and the ever-present spectre of service in the Korean War hover. However the book does not delve into any one of those themes at length, for it is ultimately more interested in tracing the theme of indignation and its consequences for the very often indignant protagonist. I read this as both somewhat a satire and somewhat a cautionary tale, but the book is just dryly witty enough to avoid being just a lecture on "practicing tact." Overall, a pretty straightforward book, no real surprises—you can tell early on the entire book will just go downhill for Mark—but still gripping as we await what shockingly condescending nonsense will befall him next.

Hmm.. if I could give 3.5 stars, I would. This book wasn't a complete epiphany, and there are some bothersome gaps in character development and fluffy stereotyping, but it was really short and therefore I can't complain about having invested a big chunk of my life in it and not getting anything out of it. And he really is great at the smooth, unflowery prose that makes you feel all at home in the novel. Ah well, 4 it is.

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