Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Defender of the Faith" Theory Questions

I think Philip Roth's "Defender of the Faith" is a good short story to view through the lens of cultural poetics. It's interesting because the short story shows the convergence of a people of a Jewish background with the United States Army which seems to have been a very WASPy institution back when this story is set. Roth shows us the two paths one can take when dealing with an organization whose cultural makeup is completely different than one's own. There is the way that Nathan Marx tries to do his job well and blend in as though he was just like everyone else, and then there is the way Sheldon Grossman tries to use his cultural background to his advantage within the institution. It's also interesting to look at the short story through the lens of cultural poetics because the Army is very much one of the ultimate forces of resistance in society. Someone in the Army does not have the luxury of doing what they wish to do, but must conform to the Army's strict rules and regulations.


1. How does Sheldon Grossman attempt to resist/avoid the regulations set upon him by the Army?

2. What different values are associated with Sheldon Grossman and Nathan Marx in regards to their individual relationships with the cultural background they both share?

3. How does both Nathan and Sheldon use their cultural background to manipulate others and get what they want?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think that this is a good story especially in relationship to the army because it muddies(i think thats how its spelled) up the differences between right and wrong even moreso that the army does initially. i think this concept especially pertains to jews in the army and especially at this time because it was a confusing period for everyone involved and for the most part people just ignored what was happening overseas, including many jewish people. so placing this story in the time it was written and viewing it that way will render the person reading it confused as to which side of the arguement is actually correct ethically and morally. the story itself seems to leave the reader drawing a blank in attempting to come to any conclusion on which side is right in this case, especially because religion is still viewed as very sacred among people and is allowed freedoms and liberties that no other idealogy is allowed. we are still confused by the crazy shit other people base thier life around and the idea of god is so instilled in us that it renders us dumbfounded when someone says anything is "in the name of god" whether it otherwise would be considered right or wrong seems to be totally extinguished after a simple utterance. its confusing i guess is my point. Great Blog!!