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Volume 1 Issue 6

November 2014

Between Melting Pot and Salad Bowl: A Study of Immigrant Jewish Culture and Identity in Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint
Ms. T. Shameema, 
Department of English, 
University of Calicut, 
Calicut, Kerala, India
Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) is one of the best-known, and perhaps one of the most controversial and notorious of American novels. Playful, and deadly serious, it explores some of the crucial issues of our times. Central to the novel, however, is the issue of the predicament of the immigrant Jewish community in the midst of WASP cultural dominance. The conflict between immigrant Jewish life and culture, and WASP life and culture is highlighted in the novel. The identity crisis precipitated by this conflict is carnivalesquely brought out through the figure of the novel’s young protagonist Alexander Portnoy, whose agonies eventually force him on to the psychoanalyst’s table. To be assimilated into the surrounding WASP culture or remain faithfully rooted in his Jewish American culture is what creates debilitating and painful identity crisis and confusions for Portnoy. The article is a brief consideration of this aspect of the novel.
Melting Pot; Salad Bowl; Immigrant Jewish Culture; Identity; Philip Roth; Portnoy’s Complaint.
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Progressive Publishers is a novice publishing enterprise located at Tranquebar, Tamilnadu, India. It primarily publishes university text-books for efficient English language learning and an online scholarly journal entitled Literary Quest. Its primary goal is to promote progressive, secular, socialist and egalitarian thoughts among academicians, researchers and students of English literature. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Social Justice are the ideals upon which the whole enterprise rests.