Philip Roth and America's Inexplicable War: Situating The Human Stain and American Pastoral within the Vietnam Canon

Carlie Sorasiak


Although Philip Roth's American Pastoral (1997) and The Human Stain (2000) broadly situate Roth within the Vietnam literary canon, his relatively late publishing dates illustrate a markedly unique approach to a victor-less, mission deficient war that is notoriously complicated to represent. Most importantly, Roth’s portrayal of the war’s domestic reality reflects the canon’s morphing trajectory, away from the straight-forward platoon novel and towards allegorical representation. This essay first examines the earlier Vietnam canon and then explicates how Roth domesticizes and mythologizes the war, specifically through his illustrations of Merry in American Pastoral and Lester in The Human Stain.


Philip Roth; Vietnam War; Allegory

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