Portnoy's Complaint Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. Who does the main character think all of his teachers are in disguise? Why?

Alex believes during his first years of school that his teachers are all his mother in disguise. This is because, as he says, "she was so embedded in [his] consciousness." He believed rushing home from school that she beat him and "transformed" back into her apron-clad form.

2. What are the protagonist's principle memories of his father from early childhood?

Alex's father was constantly plagued with constipation, and the narrator speaks of his endlessly downing Milk of Magnesia and sitting on the toilet for hours on end. In Alex's mind, his father was largely a failure and too weak to stand up to his dominant mother.

3. How does the narrator describe his sister in their early years?

Alex describes his sister, Hannah, as "sallow" and "overweight." Whereas he glided through school making straight A's, his sister struggled to get passable grades and was largely an unimpressive figure in their family.

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