Considered by many to be one of Philip Roth
's greatest works, American Pastoral
chronicles the life of Seymour "the Swede" Levov, the hero of a Jewish neighborhood in Newark
whom the narrator idolized in childhood and who still fascinates him. At the beginning of the story, Levov appears to be a one-dimensional personification of bland American decency, but then we learn a few things about him. For instance, his beloved daughter bombed a post office and killed a local doctor in order to protest the Vietnam War
- Author Avatar: The narrator, Zuckerman, is thought to be a version of Roth himself, though he's actually a very minor character.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: A non-incestuous father-daughter instance occurs when Swede and Merry reunite for the first time in five years. Despite all the terrible things that happened between them, they cry and hold onto each other and express their love... and then trouble starts again.
- Godwin's Law: During a dinner argument, Lou Levov compares pornography to the Holocaust. Slightly subverted in that he's a traditional Jewish man who lived through WWII (albeit in the United States) and understands how awful Hitler was.
- Unreliable Narrator: Nathan Zuckerman (although it is easy to forget that he's the one narrating the story, as he disappears as a character at some point during the 3rd chapter). Having access only to some of the bare facts of the Swede's life, and confronted with his apparent "blankness", Nathan Zuckerman claims concerning his story that he "dreamed a realistic chronicle", and speculates at some point about the objections that the Swede's brother would make.