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Research Papers Using The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth

Research papers using Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer can focus on the book or just use Roth's work as a point of reference for a project about Jewish culture or history.

Like many of his other works, Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer deals with the theme of Jewish identity in modern America in the following ways:

  1. For Roth, being Jewish is both being part and apart from the American mainstream
  2. Roth's characters struggle with the dichotomy of being Jewish in America
  3. Roth also works in the theme of the search for a father

Nathan Zuckerman, an up-and-coming young writer, has sought out the reclusive E.I. Lonoff, hoping to become this man’s protégé.  What he finds is not what he was looking for.

The Ghost Writer

Zuckerman’s pilgrimage to Lonoff stems from an argument with his father.  The falling out over Nathan’s new short story (detailing a less than flattering episode in family history) hits at the heart of Jewish identity in post-WWII society.  Nathan’s has created this story as a piece of art, relating events as he saw them.  The Jewishness of his characters is inconsequential.  To his father, the story destroys everything that Jews have done to integrate, and merely brings up old stereotypes:

For Nathan, this break sends him in search of the man who filled in his Jewish identity—E.I. Lonoff.  However, Amy Bellette has already taken the place he seeks.  Amy, too, has sought out Lonoff as the needed father figure, calling him “Dad-da” as well as being his mistress.  And here springs to mind an elaborate fantasy for Nathan: Amy is, in reality, Anne Frank, the most famous Jewish writer in the world.  Marriage to Anne Frank will bring him salvation in the eyes of his family.  In Anne Frank’s diary, her Jewish identity is minimal, the Franks were more Dutch than Jewish, but that did not matter to the Nazis, and so she became a symbol for the entire Holocaust: murdered because of an accident of ethnicity.

Nathan is trying to come to terms with his own accident of ethnicity.  As much as he tries to blend into the mainstream, he will always carry with him the identity of “kike,” his father tried to warn him about.  Centuries of pogroms and the Holocaust keep battering away at the collective identity of those who think they have successfully mainstreamed, as the Franks believed.

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