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Goodbye Columbus Explicatory Essay

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2019

Goodbye Columbus is a story highlighting the differences between people from the high class of society, the middle class and the low class. The story is one in a collection of short stories. This is in the novella Goodbye Columbus authored by Philip Roth. It also depicts the challenges that are present in a society that made up of a mixture of Jews and Americans.

This provides a platform for highlighting the issues that affects the Jewish and American religions. The other issue is that of African Americans and how they coexist with others in the society.

Peter Roth uses dialogue to enhance the theme in the novel Goodbye Columbus. The book highlights the themes of Jews and racism. Narcist sentiments are also portrayed in the library. The small boy in the book is black and he is being forced to take the book home. This is in order for him to reduce his visits to the library.

The conversation identifies the perception that exists against the middle class in the society (Royal 5). The boy frequents the library and it is obvious that he is really interested in understanding his religion. Though the librarian’s efforts to discourage the boy from frequenting the library are intense, he is focused.

This dialogue has played a role in showing the religious differences that are present in the society at this time. The dialogue is a reflection of the Jewish – American relationship. It is a reflection of the relationship between the African Americans and others in the society and how the former are looked down upon.

The dialogue has portrayed the strain in the relationship between Americans and Jews. The themes portrayed are religion and racism among others. These are portrayed by the help of the dialogue. The dialogue also contributes to the flow of the plot. Its main purpose is to portray the themes and enhance the plot of the story (Royal 5).

The second paragraph is a reflection of Neil’s previous conversation with Brenda. Brenda comes from a well to do family and has been into the library. Neil comes from a poor background and the fact that he is poor means that has never been to the library and has no thoughts of stepping into it. This is why he looks into the mirror and wishes he were different on the outside. This explores the theme of racism and disparities in social status.

The author shows his prowess in using psycho analyses in his writing. This is also defined as symbolism. The excerpt has many features that show the life of Neil and how broken his life is because of his background and colour (Rudnytsky 2).

This statement brings to light the predicament that Neil finds himself in. There is symbolism in the statement “…broken walls of books, and imperfectly shelved…….” (Rudnytsky 2). It is symbolic as it shows how Neil’s life is disorganized and the wall which can be defined as a defence is also broken and imperfectly shelved, meaning his life is not at its best (Rudnytsky 3).

We also see the idea of pain in his life. He is not happy with the way his life has turned out and he wants it to be better. The author has used the excerpt in order to portray the theme of disparity in social status and the discrimination against the African Americans. This is seen when Brenda tells Neil about the Patimkin sinks in the library rest rooms, a sign that he had never stepped into the library. It is simple; his status does not allow him to use the library (Rudnytsky 3).

The two excerpts have been used to portray different themes and also enhance the plot of the story in Goodbye Columbus. They are effectively used as stylistic devices, for example the reflection or symbolism in Neil’s life.

Works Cited

Royal, Desderias. “From ‘Fancy-Schmancy’ Seminars to the Composition Classroom: Reflections on Teaching ‘Goodbye, Columbus’. The Philip Roth Society Newsletter 3.8 (2002): 1-8. Print.

Rudnytsky, Paul. “Goodbye, Columbus: Roth’s Portrait of the Narcissist as a Young Man.” Findarticles Library. CBS Network, 2005. Web.

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"Goodbye Columbus." IvyPanda, 21 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-columbus/.

1. IvyPanda. "Goodbye Columbus." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-columbus/.


IvyPanda. "Goodbye Columbus." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-columbus/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Goodbye Columbus." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-columbus/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Goodbye Columbus'. 21 June.

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