Stereotypes and clichés about older age typically evoke criticism and resistance. Rightly so, given that they simplify, overgeneralize, distort, and limit. This article treats stereotypes and clichés as forms that can indeed have powerful and harmful meanings; however, it claims that a focus on content may overlook some of the surprising and unpredictable affordances these forms can also have: stereotypes can help order experience, offer guidelines for behavior, describe relationships, and provide solace and comfort. The article uses Philip Roth's novel Everyman as a particularly rich test case in which stereotypes and clichés abound: a grumpy and “dirty” old man sees in aging nothing but decline, tragedy, and an accumulation of illnesses—associations that age scholars have challenged for decades. These stereotypes, however, also have less predictable affordances, especially when they are conspicuously repeated and amplified via literary strategies. Rather than claiming that these strategies undermine and challenge the problematic nature of age stereotypes and clichés, this article aims to broaden the repertoire of critical approaches to these forms.

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