James's Reviews > Indignation
by Philip Roth
by Philip Roth
Mar 28, 2009
The force of this novel sneaks up on you as you are reading it. So many aspects to it: for someone my age, I know too much about the Viet Nam War, but, until this book, so little about The Korean War. Why should I have remotely expected that the war in Korea would have been any less savage than any other war? Because when it was being waged, I was young, in grade school and when reading about it in history books, it still had no meaning. Enter Philip Roth and this novel, Indignation. It is 1951 and the world is changing. An uneasiness and worry develops in the father of the main character. It is the beginning of our modern angst. It pervades the book and all its themes. When the boys at Winesburg College in Ohio go on a panty-raid rampage, the dean gives them a lecture afterward worthy the most patriotic zealot. How dare they go awry when soldiers are fighting in Korea against godless Communism. And our main character all the way through the book knows that if he screws up in college, he will wind up in Korea fighting the ruthless Chinese and North Koreans. The novel explores our history at a critical moment in time. It beautifully narrates the end of the post World War II security and optimism. It sets the stage for the ills that plague us today. It is a remarkable accounting and one that stays with me long after I've closed the book.
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