Between two experimental morphologies, that of dystopia and that of allohistory, Philip Roth’s novel tells the story of a single family facing hard times, as seen through the eyes of its 7 to 9 year-old younger son but told from a retrospective standpoint of, as it were, the same person when a mature intellectual and a remorseful survivor, several decades later. The last word of the main narrative is “prosthesis.” This paper analyzes the novel’s motif of prosthesis, in the literal and in the figurative sense, in light of Marshall McLuhan’s concept of “autoamputation” in Understanding Media, and in light of the recurrent patterns of Jewish history which the protagonist narrator replicates despite himself. This discussion of the semantic and syntactic aspects of the prosthesis motif is then brought to bear on the pragmatic aspect of the novel—its bid for, and partial control of, the reader’s sympathy for the erring protagonist.


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pp. 41-50
Launched on MUSE
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