Social demand and personal desire in Philp Roth's "Human Stain" by Mandy Dobiasch Summary
Seminar paper from the year 2003 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0 (A), University of Potsdam (Anglistics/American Studies), course: Introduction to American Literature and Culture, 2 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: We live in a time in which conformity and adaptation are important constituents of social life. Integration into society and the obeying of established norms, which goes hand in hand with it, are often the precondition for the degree of acceptance and the recognition of the individual in society. This, however, means that forms of expression of personal nature, including ethnic, religious as well as general questions concerning the personal belief, have to be practiced in private or in secret, or even have to be completely suppressed because the stigma of being antisocial or immoral is quickly allocated. Especially when it comes to moral centrals issues, such as different opinions and individual actions which are directed at the public morals, these are often not accepted or even fought against. The freedom of the individual therefore too often drowns in the swamp of generality. Philip Roth has tackled this problematic issue in his novel “The Human Stain”. The main character, Coleman Silk, is badly criticised by the people around him for making a thoughtless comment on two of his students, and in his anger uses this as an opportunity to evade social grading once and for all; he decides only to pursue the fulfilment of his desires and ideas. But Coleman is not the only acting character in conflict with the expectations of the general majority. There is Faunia Farley, a cleaner at the local college, with whom Coleman fosters a secret love affair and who tries to escape from the brutal behaviour of her ex-husband. There is precisely that Lester Farley, the Vietnam veteran who cannot come to terms with his war memories and therefore is not able to return into society. Interesting is also Delphine Roux, the young and ambitious College professor, who sets in motion the conflict concerning the accusation of racism against Coleman. Finally, the character Nathan Zuckerman should be mentioned, the author of the story who, in search for isolation, finds exactly the opposite. Each of the characters mentioned above has to bear his own internal conflict which keeps them from integrating into society and leading a normal life in adaptation, in the in the safe close circle of moral.