"In-between" Jews in Philip Roth's twentieth century America.
Liao, Sharon Ying Tong.
Date of Issue2010
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Whiteness is a social construction that is linked to social status. Most of the Jewish American characters in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus buy into the ‘American Dream’ as they try to assimilate into white American society. In the process of assimilation, they isolate themselves from the traditional Jewish community, and instead subscribe to the aims set up by the white Americans. In this essay, I will look into race issues which are still largely prevalent in contemporary America. As quoted from W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, “[t]he problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea” (Du Bois 9). As I explore the issue of race, and hence “the problem of the color-line”, I must also look into “what is typically regarded as white ethnic or ‘immigrant’ history as part of the history of race in the United States” (Roediger 8). Next, I must consider why the racial “inbetweenness” of these new immigrant communities eventually resulted in them accepting their white identity. When an in-between ethnic immigrant makes the decision to assimilate and “whiten” himself, is his decision to feel American based on birthright or on choice? And, is race inherited or acquired? This essay attempts to investigate the construction of whiteness and understand how these “new immigrants” went from being an ‘in-between’ ethnic minority to a racial group that accepted their ‘white’ identity.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University