Dr. David Salomon
The current article presents evidence that, in his novella Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth should be commended for illustrating the limitations placed on women in Jewish-American culture during the 1950s, rather than criticized for exhibiting the misogynistic viewpoints of that era. Roth uses a combination of male narration and female characterization to show the limited opportunities available to women. Brenda, the primary female protagonist, is presented from the perspective of the male narrator, Neil, as frustrating and incomprehensible. This characterization demonstrates the difference between Neil’s way of thinking, as a male, and Brenda’s as a female. Brenda is an affluent character who demonstrates that wealth alone cannot provide a woman with opportunities and freedoms that equal even those available to males of lesser status. Brenda lacks freedom, financially because of her lack of options as a woman, within her own skin because of a lack of autonomy over her body within sexual relationships, and over her self-image because of the criticism she experiences from her mother and the expectations placed upon her by her parents as a Jewish woman in 1950s society. The current article, therefore, argues that what is often misinterpreted as misogyny in Roth’s use of criticism of Brenda’s character by Neil is, in fact, a vivid demonstration of the lack of options and autonomy available to women in that era.
Feminism, 1950s, Jewish American, Philip Roth
Van Bellingham, Haley E.
"Feminist Themes in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus,"
International Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities:
Vol. 8, Article 1.