The works of Joseph Heller and Philip Roth are frequently inhabited by American-born Jews. In The Counterlife Roth discusses the association between the American born Diaspora Jew to the State of Israel. In Plot Against America it is the reaction of a Jewish family to governmental anti-Semitism that Roth explores. Bruce Gold, in Joseph Heller's Good As Gold, is a Jewish man seeking political office in the United States. Throughout the three novels the characters are revealed to consider themselves Jews only in ethnicity and it is here that they create the most conflict with their worlds. Through their relation to Gentiles one discovers a mutual fascination with the contrast between Jew and Christian. In The Counterlife, Philip Roth is greatly concerned with the relation of American born Jews to the State of Israel. The main character, Nathan Zuckerman, makes two trips to Israel during the book, once during a flashback and the second time to visit his brother Henry who is studying there. Through his extreme characters Roth creates a discussion focused mainly on the Diaspora Jew, Nathan in the book. Through his conversations with a wide spectrum of Israelis Roth builds this discussion of Israel and American Jews, specifically ethnic Jews like Nathan. Nathan's friend Shuki Elchanan is one of the moderate characters in the novel and the first Israeli the reader meets.
[...] At a lunch with Shuki and his father Yakov, Nathan is involved in a conversation about his feelings towards Israel as an American Jew. Yakov Elchanan leads Nathan to a window in the restaurant looking out on the city. He says to Nathan, “You're not going back there (America), are you? Don't be ridiculous, you'll stay. See that tree? That's a Jewish tree. See that bird? That's a Jewish bird. See up there? That's a Jewish cloud. There is no country for a Jew but here” (57). [...]
[...] Carnovsky, in the fiction of the Zuckerman books, written by Roth, is the equivalent of Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, dealing with the same themes and causing the same controversy as Carnovsky does in fiction. This relates to Nathan's tendency to shy away from his religious roots. He lives a life that seems to have allowed religion to permeate not at all. However, his writing again and again shows how much interest he actually has in Jews as people. This for Nathan is similar to Philip's fascination with Christians, both are attempting to explain something about themselves and their world through the contemplation of the opposite. [...]
[...] This relates to one of Lippman's more interesting points- American Jews and Israeli Jews. He claims that even in the Jewish homeland of Judea a Jew cannot live fully; Israeli Jews are always in danger. In America, he says, a Jew can live without apology, without shame. Yet in Israel, only place on this entire planet where a Jew can have the experience of statehood” they are hated and attacked from all sides. This is not a truth to Nathan. [...]
[...] His return to his family, including his highly observant father, reflects Gold's acceptance of his identity as a Jew. In refusing to play the political game to bypass his religion, Gold is signaling an acceptance of it. This way he will not become head of NATO nor Secretary of State, but he will salvage both his dignity and his morality, both of which are fundamentally related to his being a Jew. In the three novels Roth and Heller are interested in fictional Jewish characters and how they relate [...]
[...] This is a direct attack on Zuckerman and Carnovsky, probably reflecting arguments Roth himself faced with the publication of Portnoy's Complaint and his other Zuckerman novels. In Good As Gold this hatred keeps Bruce Gold from his goal. To him it seems his only obstacle is the religion he was born into. He is a smart man, a literature professor, and a fairly well respected writer. Yet through his attempts to gain power he is again and again pushed back down. [...]
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