Contextualizing American Pastoral within Newark’s history from the 1940s to the 1990s, including the 1967 riots and their continuing effects, Philip Roth contrasts this poor black city with the protagonist’s idealized image of America—a wealthy WASP suburb. Although largely neglected by critics, African Americans are crucial to Roth’s critique of the sixties and America as a whole. By drawing attention to the black voices represented through and circumscribed in the protagonist’s white victim narrative, I examine how Roth unmasks American society’s deep-rooted but still often overlooked racial and class divisions and criticizes the perpetuation of the American pastoral myth and the myth of the American Dream, which endures despite the counter-reality of African Americans’ experience.

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