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Critical ChildrenThe Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels$
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Richard Locke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157834

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157834.001.0001

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Philip Roth’s Performing Loudmouth

Philip Roth’s Performing Loudmouth

Alexander Portnoy

(p.173) 7 Philip Roth’s Performing Loudmouth
Critical Children

Richard Locke

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the character of Alexander Portnoy, a model child who harbors a guilty secret, in Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint (1969). The novel arose from Roth's four abandoned projects, namely The Jewboy, The Nice Jewish Boy, Portrait of the Artist, and an untitled monologue. It employs a nonlinear, free-associative psychoanalytic monologue rather than the usual linear novel of childhood and adolescence, using the first person point of view to follow Portnoy's provincial infancy and adolescence to cosmopolitan life as a man about town. It demonstrates how Portnoy's social and erotic expectations have destroyed him, exposing official manners and morals as frauds.

Keywords:   Alexander Portnoy, Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint, psychoanalytic monologue, social expectations, erotic expectations

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