Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint, New York: Random House, 1969

  1. Christopher MacGowan

Published Online: 24 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch59

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

How to Cite

MacGowan, C. (2011) Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint, New York: Random House, 1969, in The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch59

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 21 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405160230

Online ISBN: 9781444393675

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Keywords:

  • Philip Roth, still best known by readers - as the author of Portnoy's Complaint;
  • narrator Alexander Portnoy - pleading at one point in the monologue to his psychoanalyst Dr. Spielvogel;
  • Alex, and the analyst, delivering a sexually frank account of his relationships and masturbatory obsessions;
  • Alex, giving each of the girls a label - as if to deny personal, human qualities, stages in his confused rebellion;
  • Alex's relationship in college with Kay Campbell, “The Pumpkin” - pattern of contradictions in relationships to follow;
  • Alex, insisting in family arguments - that he had rejected his parents' religion, his interest in Kay disappearing, having no intention of converting to Judaism;
  • For Alex, having sex with a girl like Sarah Abbott Maulsby, “The Pilgrim” - to “stick it up their backgrounds”;
  • “The Monkey,” Mary Jane Reed - beautiful, and a sexual athlete, astonishing and exciting Alex, kind of “American history” with her working-class;
  • encounter with Naomi, “The Jewish Pumpkin” - “My final downfall and humiliation” sending him to the psychoanalyst's couch;
  • Alex's father, seeing his son as a vicarious source of liberation - “from ignorance, from exploitation from anonymity”

Summary

This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Bibliography