Jerry Wang1/26/2018Mr. Michael KlineThe Plot Against America    A child should never be subjected to the horrors of war, and the lack of significant domestic conflicts in America since the 19th century has fostered an isolationist mentality in Americans as they look on at foreign wars far away from their shores. Roth challenges this mindset in The Plot Against America by bringing Hitler’s allies into the white house, and how that would affect his upbringing as a Jewish family in New Jersey. Philip’s relationship with his father, Herman Ross, is built on the bond of blood and forged in a world filled with anger towards fascism, anti-semites, and politics. We see Philip’s anxiety as a child being overwhelmed by his parent’s fear trying to overcome and understand events that are out of his grasp, contrasted with Herman’s father figure that seems to dissolve with the passing of each day due to the encroachment of Nazis that will eradicate the Ross family simply due to their heritage.     Philip looks up to Herman in many ways and tries to analyze his many different aspects, whether as a Jew, father or , as he comes to realize later in the novel, an ordinary human being. All of Philip’s information about politics and modern day information comes through Herman, who reads the newspaper to his family and brings them to showings of newsreels about the war. Thus, Philip’s intellectual understanding of the world around him is often limited by what the father understands, as no one around him gives him the time of their day. Furthermore, the father is not rich nor influential, and Philip later comes to realize “There were two types of strong men: those like Uncle Monty and Abe Steinheim, remorseless about their making money, and those like my father, ruthlessly obedient to their idea of fair play” (Roth 255). However, he also admires his father’s obstinance in the face of fascism and seemingly endless darkness. Herman drives the story through his narration and exposition on current world events, and he is integral in Philip’s character development and helps him realize what being a Jew during this hypothetical time period would feel like.Through Herman, Philip learned to hate Lindbergh and the fascist he represents, a view that is reinforced by the Jewish community he lives in. Philip is sheltered because of this, in a sense, as his family tries to keep him away from areas where German American Bunds may live, so he does not interact with others. Philip’s brother, Sandy, is the polar opposite as he travels to Kentucky and mingles extensively with the public with their aunt. As Sandy mingles with the upper echelons of American society, Philips make the observation that “Sandy had by now grown strong enough to take over from my father, Roth” (Roth 139), both physically as a young adult and as a Jew who has made friends with influential people. Herman is powerless to stop this, and we see that the father loses his authoritative figure with his eldest son inside his household. Philip is affected greatly by this family bickering, as he sees a brother torn away from him by his distant aunt, who suddenly rose to the fame she so desired, and he came to despise them because he “understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools could so strongly determine the fate of others (Roth 213). This view came from Herman, as he constantly argues with Evelyn about Lindbergh and portrays her as a traitor to American Jews. Philip is inclined to believe Herman because of his limited exposure to his aunt and the outside world, compared to his father and the Jewish community. Both father and aunt paint each other as ignorant and xenophobic to an extent, as one side represent the Jewish community and the other side represents the new conservative America. Herman does project an aura of paranoia in this story, as we see that many of his predictions do not come true, but he was the representation of all Jewish people during times of persecution, and we see him passing down this fear to Philip, who takes it as his own.The Plot Against America, at its core, is a story about a boy growing up amidst a nation that was far less peaceful than our timeline. Like all boys, Philip looks to the adults around him for guidance on how to navigate the world, and Herman fulfilled that role by showing him the dangers of this new America. Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America: A Novel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition. 


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