American Pastoral Criticism

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There was near unanimous agreement among reviewers that American Pastoral represented another formidable achievement by one of America's leading writers. Writing in the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani describes the novel as “a resonant parable of American innocence and disillusion . . . a big, rough-hewn work built on a grand design . . . that is . . . moving, generous and ambitious.” Kakutani interprets the novel in terms of how Roth presents “two contradictory impulses in American history.” The first impulse was the “optimistic strain of Emersonian self-reliance, predicated upon a belief in hard work and progress” that is seen in Swede; the second impulse, embodied in Merry, represents “the darker side of American individualism.”

Michael Wood, in the New York Times Book Review, is one of a few critics who have some complaint about the slow pace of the novel, but his overall assessment is enthusiastic nonetheless: “the mixture of rage and elegy in...

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This section contains 271 words
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Buy the American Pastoral Study Guide
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