Different Perspectives in a Story

*Remember, Annotated Bibliography is due Monday with a minimum of three sources

Texts discussed: Chapter 7 & 8 of Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus”

(Briana Godina, Miles Wearing, Jesse McCormack, Ramiro Esparza)

Themes: Perspective

In Chapters 7 and 8, Brenda gets a contraceptive diaphragm from a doctor, and we see Neil and the Patimkin family get ready to head off to attend Ron Patimkin’s wedding. Things are strained between Neil and Brenda, and as they travel out of town together for the wedding Neil gets a closer look at some of the rest of the Patimkin family. The family takes a trip down memory lane as they prepare Ron for his grand adventure, and then the group takes off to the venue. The reader is introduced to some of the Patimkin in-laws, who regale Neil and Brenda with tales of their own relationships and personal journeys. We’re briefly introduced to Mrs. Patimkin’s siblings, and then Brenda and Neil sit and have a long conversation with Mr. Patimkin’s half-brother, Leo. We get to see a different side of Leo, as he is open and honest with his thoughts and feelings about relationships and his station in life. Shortly after the wedding, Neil drops Brenda off at the train station to depart for school.

Neil returns to his job at the library, and feels a shift in his perspective, though he doesn’t always seem to understand what it is. He is excited that Brenda is going to be coming home to celebrate the Jewish holidays, but soon receives a phone call from Brenda with the news that she won’t be able to be there. This causes another crack to form in their relationship. It is decided that Neil will come up to visit her at a hotel for a few days instead. Upon arriving at the hotel, Brenda sits Neil down and shows him a pair of letters that she has received from her parents, detailing their feelings about Brenda and Neil’s relationship and the events of the previous summer. It is revealed that Mrs. Patimkin found the contraceptive diaphragm in Brenda’s drawer, and that she feels betrayed by her daughter after having had Neil in her home with them. This leads to an argument between Neil and Brenda that proves to be the end of their relationship.


“When the photographer came by to take pictures, Marty put his hand on his wife’s pancake breasts and said, “Hey, how about a picture of this!”” (Roth 106).

This shows how different perspectives can be in the book. This quote can show that men think it’s okay to push women around to test their loyalty. But in some other perspective it can be seen as some men have no respect for women. This is important because it might encourage Neil to think its okay to push over women, to test a woman’s loyalty later on in the book.


“Some people never turn out the way you hope and pray I am willing to forgive and call Buy Gones, Buy Gones.” (Roth 127).

“Why you should reward us this was is a question I’ll carry with me to the grave.” (Roth 129).

Brenda’s mother and father carry two completely different perspectives on the situation that went down. On one hand, Brenda’s mother was being very passive aggressive about how she’s mistreating them, when on the other hand, the father has a perfectly reasonable response to it, as they were trying to use protection, and were doing what any reasonable person their age is likely to do, but in the safest manner they could. Their different takes on the entire thing were both well just, but also somewhat extreme.


“Knowing how your mother feels about you, wasn’t it silly to leave it home? Risky?”

“What does how she feels about me have to do with it?” (Roth 131).

Neil has his point of view, where he is very suspicious of Brenda leaving the diaphragm at home, whereas Brenda pleads innocence and that it has no deeper meaning than simply forgetfulness. Their two differing opinions end up being the downfall of their relationship, though it was destined to happen before this.


1.Was Brenda and Neil’s relationship all physical and sex or did they have some emotional connection to each other?

2. Did Neil truly believe that Brenda forgot the diaphragm in the dresser or did he believe it was something deeper than that?

3. What’s the difference between the two letters Brenda receives from her parents? How has this changed their perceptions of Brenda and Neil? Or has it?





Group B: Alejandro, Valerie, Ruby, Gulsum, Katherine, Ashley

*(Professor Note: The Theater Department has invited our class to next Thursday 5/2 evening’s performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. This would be great cultural artifact to consider using with your research paper. Just mention LEHREN’s class to get $13 tix discounted from the full price tix).

*Remember no class next week and your Research Proposal is due next on Monday. Prompt click here.

Texts Discussed: Goodbye, Columbus by Phillip Roth Chapters 5 & 6, and “Love and Identity: Neil Klugman’s Quest in ‘Goodbye, Columbus’”

Theme: Fear of change/Loss of identity

Chapters 5 and 6 expand on the numerous differences between Neil and Brenda, and provides examples of the many ways that Neil is unknowingly struggling to hold on to his identity of the person he once was, while Brenda and the Patimkin’s lifestyle have a major influence.

Staying together in the Patimkin household for multiple weeks, Neil and Brenda seem to learn more about each other, while still struggling to see if they actually know enough about each other at all. Neil seems to struggle with staying in touch with his inner self, while Brenda seems ‘content’ that she has someone to mold into the person she needs, being that she is insecure and has issues at home (“Daddy issues”), which skew her ideals on the type of love she is looking for. It seems like Neil and Brenda both bring a change about each other throughout their romance.

After hearing her brother Ron is to be married soon, tensions are in the air and this seems to affect Brenda. Brenda and Mrs. Patimkin get into an argument where Mrs. Patimkin accuses Brenda of being lazy and not appreciating or working for her money. This argument is justified when Brenda looks for the $300 her father left her and wanted to tear it to pieces to prove a point to her mom. Neil tells her he would have stopped her, and Brenda clearly appreciates the balance that Neil is to her, likely because Brenda comes from a family that normally always says yes to her. This illuminates some of the differences between the two.

Neil has a dream where he is docked on a ship with the boy from the library in a beautiful setting. The ship begins to set sail and Neil and the boy don’t want to leave- Their only reaction is to blame each other. This dream disturbs Neil and he holds on to Brenda tightly- Why does this scare him? Why is he reminded of Brenda? Could this be symbolic of his feelings towards her?

When Neil tells his Aunt that he is staying with the Patimkins another week, she tells him to be careful- If he stays in suburbia for too long, he’ll be too good for them. Is Neil capable of seeing what others can see on the outside? It seems as the people around him notice a change in Neil.

The days are inching closer to where Brenda must go back to school, making Neil insecure. This leads them both to a sudden thought- Marriage. This leaves the audience to wonder if Neil truly wants to marry Brenda because he loves her, or if he only loves her for the lifestyle. Although it seems like Neil and Brenda both haven’t given enough consideration to that question, it seems clear they are both confused as to what they truly want. We can feel a sort of fear of change and commitment from both sides.

Quotes from text and article:

“I don’t like the way your voice sounds”

“Why? Do I sound like I’ve got on dirty underwear?” “Smart guy. Someday you’ll learn.”


“What do you mean What?” You’ll find out. You’ll stay there too long you’ll be too good for us.”

“Never, sweetheart,” I said.

“I”ll see it I”ll believe it. (Roth 76)

Summary of quote: Neil is calling his Aunt Gladys letting her know he will be staying another week and that he is having a good time. His Aunt questions why he is staying. Neil simply responds by telling her again that he’s having a wonderful time. During this conversation they are having, Aunt Gladys tries to find a reason for Neil why he should head back home by asking Neil if he has clean underwear and if they are being washed at night daily. Aunt Gladys is becoming fearful of Neil changing by staying there longer and that he’s going to be too good for them. Neil reassures Aunt Gladys that’s not the case at all. She goes on to stay someday you’ll learn. Aunt Gladys fears that Neil is going to change who he is and forget about his own family by being with a different one.

“What does age have to do with it?”

“I don’t mean age. I just mean well, me. I mean it’s so conscious a thing to do.

“Of course it’s conscious. That’s exactly it. Don’t you see? It would change us.”

“It would change me.”

“Us. Together.” (82)

Summary of quote: Neil starts to think about the possibility Brenda can get pregnant even though it hasn’t happened. Neil is mind wonders how it can ruin his life and change theirs. Neil grows concerned and feels the need to bring it up to Brenda about getting a diaphragm and how he feels it is important. The fear that Neil is experiencing is the uncertainty of the future. He tries to prevent and come up with a plan to avoid this change that hasn’t happened yet.

“Brenda is nothing, as you probably know.”

“Oh?” I said. “No, I didn’t know that.”

“She was the best hebrew student I’ve ever seen,” Mrs. Patimkin said, “but then, of course, she got too big for her britches” (89).

Summary of quote: Mrs. Patimkin express worry that her daughter is losing touch with her Jewish side. Throughout the novel Brenda, like Neil, doesn’t express much interest or much in common with the Jewish community, which their family wishes would stay a part of their identity, being that they were both raised in Jewish households.

Quote 4. Article: Love and Identity: Neil Klugman’s Quest in ‘Goodbye, Columbus’

“Short Hills is the same kind of dream for him that Tahiti is for the black boy, and he envisages the suburb ‘at dusk, rose-colored, like a Gauguin stream.”

Summary of quote: This shows that Neil longs for a life in the suburbs after he finally got a taste of it- A longing that we would imagine Neil did not have before he met Brenda.

1. Why does Neil want Brenda to get a diaphragm? How does Brenda feel about Neil asking her to get this done?

2. How does Ron feel about working with his Dad and is he following his dreams?

3. Why do you think Aunt Gladys thinks Neil will think he’s too good for Short Hills?

4. What are some examples of ways Neil seems to be struggling to hold on to his identity?

5. Does Brenda really mean it when she says to Neil, “I should be the bride”? Is he afraid to ask in fear of the response being anything than a hallelujah?

6. What does the vast fruit refrigerator represent to Neil?

Philip Roth’s “Goodbye Columbus” Symposium Group A: with YESENIA, TATIANA, and ADIN

Texts discussed: Ch. 3-4 of “Goodbye, Columbus” by Philip Roth and “Goodbye, Columbus: Roth’s Portrait of the Narcissist As a Young Man”

Theme: Manipulation

For the third chapter Neil goes to work but he is early, so he walks through the park. When he gets to work (at a library) him and John see a boy of color looking at art books and john wants him out but Neil tells him he will take care of it. Brenda (the girl Neil likes) asks Neil to babysit her little sister because Brenda and her family are dropping Ron Brenda’s older brother of to the airport but Julie Brenda’s little sister does not want t o go because she’s mad at Ron for pushing her in the pool earlier. Neil does not like this idea and tells Brenda but later on he ends up playing ping pong with Julie. later that day Brenda and Neil end up “making love” while sitting on the sofa in the tv room.

For chapter four it starts with the next week and a half the only people he talks to is Brenda and the boy from chapter 3 that likes looking at the books. The boy and Neil start this bond, the boy is there waiting for Neil and then leaves the library when Neil leaves the library. As for Brenda he saw her every night, one day they went down to the club and went swimming, there she finally asked him about his family. He tries to avoid the question. Later Brenda asks Neil if he loves her and again he did not want to answer.

Chapters 3 and 4 of “Goodbye, Columbus” is primarily concerned with the characters attempting to manipulate each other to achieve their own goals. The game that Brenda & Neil play, where Brenda verbally pokes at Neil until he’s flustered – only to then ask him if he loves her. Another instance is when Brenda’s parents ask Neil insinuating questions about himself, as to see his social status.

  1. Does Neil truly want to leave his job at the library to find a better job, or is he just lying to make himself feel important?
  2. Do you think that Brenda manipulated Neil into saying that he loves her or not? And do you think she is doing it on purpose or subconsciously?
  3. Why do you think Brenda’s parents ask Neil about himself, is it because they are curious about him or do they just want to see if he is a good fit for Brenda?

The Golddigger vs. Daddy Issues: Symposium on “Goodbye, Columbus”

*Here is an example of what I’d like each of your groups to create for “Part 2” of your “Goodbye, Columbus” assignment and emailed to me the week prior to the date you present: Title, name of essay and chapters discussed, themes discussed, an opinion of the chapters and quotes from each analyzed, 3 minimum open-ended questions, and a youtube or other media element to help us relate to the texts.

Texts discussed: Irving Howe’s “The Suburbs of Babylon” and first two chapter of Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus”

Theme: Class and Suburbia

“Goodbye, Columbus” starts off with the beginning of a summer romance. Summer romances are fun, and Roth makes sure to lure us in with the all the tantalizing bits you’d expect from such a story,

She caught the bottom of her suit between thumb and index finger and flicked what flesh had been showing back where it belongs. My blood jumped (3).

With carnal words like “flesh” and “blood” and a hint at the forbidden with “back where it belongs” Roth sets up the classic boy meets girl story. However, Roth also starts to lay the groundwork for the stories’ conflict by carefully painting the differences not only between the two, but also the difference in the towns they’re from. In the essay “The Suburbs of Babylon,” Irving Howe gives us insight into “Goodbye, Columbus” beyond its love story,

the transformation from proletarian immigrant poverty to middle class suburban comfort (1).

How do immigrant families change as they begin to ascend the American Dream latter and reach the promised land of Suburbia? Seeing how Brenda and Neil are from such different backgrounds, it makes us start to wonder why are they so attracted to each other in the first place. While Brenda and Neil are scared to look to deeply into their romance, Roth begins to explore how both might be into each other for reasons other than just the easy answer of “love.”

We whipped our strangeness and newness into a froth that resembled love, and we dared not play play too long with it, talk too much of it, or it would flatten and fizzle away (19).

Is Neil a gold digger? Does Brenda have Daddy issues? The answer might not be as simple as yes, or no, but both character begin to learn about each other, each other’s worlds, and themselves in this Romeo and Juliet styled romance.

  1. Cite two different examples how Roth characterizes Short Hills vs. Newark and explain why their different.
  2. What are two different specific personal qualities of Neil and Brenda (or someone else from the Patimkin family) and how are they different?
  3. Other than Radcliffe what other big schools are in Boston? Why is Neil so annoyed with Brenda’s “I go to school in Boston” in comment?
  4. What does Neil learn about how basketball is played at the Patimkin house? Why does Neil feel that he can’t joke about it, but then decides he “had to”?

Have Fun!



How to be Critical of the American Dream

*It’s ok I promise.

Texts discussed: Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie 

-In order to help you better write something about the Williams’ view of the American Dream review this post on how to do a Marxist analysis, handout, and Encyclopedia Britanica’s article on social class link here. The ultimate goal of a Marxist reading: Does The Glass Menagerie “support the dominant social class” or does Williams’ work “contribute to the struggle against oppression”?

Aristocracy: according to Marx, the traditional class of nobles, those individuals who for many centuries held extraordinary power over others and enjoyed equally extraordinary privileges because of their ownership of land, their control of political structures ranging from kingships to local feudal positions, and their proprietorship over the bodies and labor of their subjects. The members of this class are very few in number.

Bourgeois: those  who have accumulated wealth and influence through heir control of factories, businesses, and other highly profitable enterprises. They continue the aristocratic tradition of exploiting the labor of others and ensuring their own wealth through practically every means possible.

Proletariat: those who the bourgeois exploit, but also depend on. The working class, who sell their labor and bodies but control none of the institutions or structures that generate the great wealth of the bourgeois.

Materialism (& material conditions): those components of daily life related directly to one’s economic existence, such as housing, work environment, and access to education and health care.

Ideology: Belief systems that underlie our actions and material lives.

Repressive State Apparatuses: Institutions that enforce “hard power” through violence, such as the army, the police, the judiciary, and the prison system. It operates primarily by means of mental and physical coercion and violence (latent and actual).

Ideological State Apparatuses: Louis Althusser argues that these create social roles and make them appear “natural,” and informing our consciousness of those roles, they justify and perpetuate the economic relationships in which people exist. And those ideologies are transmitted through literary, political, and religious texts, through the media, through the educational system, and so forth, all of which offer rich opportunities for analysis by class-conscious, politically attuned cultural critics.

Guidelines for analysis:

  1. Key role of a Marxist critic is to elucidate textual and extra-textual ideologies and further class awareness, and positive social change.
  2. A critical engagement towards material conditions, and our attitudes towards those conditions, is essential for achieving positive social change
  3. Oppression of workers (proletariat) is the basis of traditional social structures
    -Aristocrats/Bourgeoise can afford so much because proletariat are kept in poverty
    -Relentless pursuit of self-interest is to blame
  4. Class conflict is inevitable
    -Hegemony: how powerful social groups “naturalize” domination of others via the “status quo”
  5. Literary & Cultural texts are always ideological
    -The bourgeoise are usually the primary audience for these texts
  6. Characters reflect class ideologies
    a. If the character goes from poor to rich, or visa-versa, how does their perspective on the world change?
    b. How do their sympathies change?
    c. How do their interactions with other characters reflect old or new class interests?

Have fun.


What is the American Dream?

Text discussed: Williams’ Glass Menagerie Scenes V-VII

You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!

All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.

1. Why does Amanda hope that Mr. O’Connor is not too good-looking? What does Amanda’s above line say about the American dream for women?

2. Why is Tom finally sick of the movies?

Shakespeare probably wrote a poem on that light bill

3. Considering Tom is reluctant to Jim and his mother’s suggestions of bettering himself career-wise, expand on the irony of Tom as a Dreamer and the American Dream? What do you think the play is trying to say about the role of an artist in a society that revolves around commerce and money?

What impressed me most was the Hall of Science. Gives you an idea of what the future will be in America, even more wonderful than the present time is!

and learned that I had an aptitude for science.

For instance, I hoped when I was going to high school that I would be further along at this time, six years later, than I am now– You remember that wonderful write-up I had in The Torch?

4. What do you make of the contrast of nostalgia and dreaming about the future in Jim’s conversation with Laura?

Because I believe in the future of television! I wish to be ready to go up right along with it. Therefore I’m planning to get in on the ground floor. In fact I’ve already made the right connections and all that remains is for the industry itself to get under way! Full steam– Knowledge–Zzzzzp! Money–Zzzzzzp!–Power! That’s the cycle democracy is built on!

5. What is a current tech. industry that embodies Jim’s claims of Knowledge, Money, and Power? To what extent does it reflect democracy?

6. How does Jim’s view of democracy metaphorically clash with Laura’s Glass collection? What might the collection or the unicorn represent?

7. What do you believe is the significance of Laura giving Jim the once Unicorn, now horse?

Have fun!

What are Dreams, Memories and Reality?

Texts discussed: Scenes I-IV of Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie

HW: Thesis due on essay prompt (click here for prompt)

Everyone should know nowadays, the unimportance of the photographic in art; that truth, life, or reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent or suggest, in essence, only through transformation, through changing into other forms, those which were merely present in appearance.

Tom: Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

1. What does William mean that a photograph cannot represent truth? How can one give truth is the disguise of illusion? What is he trying to say?

2. Regarding Amanda’s long monologue near the end of scene I, to what extent is Amanda a gold digger? Under what circumstances is that ok for a woman?

He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances

3. Compare and contrast Laura and Tom’s use of popular media (music and movies). What is the significance?

You are the only young man that I know of who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!

Have fun!