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UNIVERSITY OF PRISHTINA

FACULTY OF PHILOLOGY
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

SEMINAR PAPER
TOPIC: “Racial discrimination and Personal Identity”

Supervisor:
Prof.Dr.Lindita Tahiri

Candidate:
Anesa Metlillo

March 2015

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TABLE OF CONTENT Introduction 3 Background and Methodology 4 Racial discrimination and Personal Identity 6 Conclusion 9 Bibliography 10 INTRODUCTION 2 .

the irony turns when it is revealed that Coleman himself was a light skinned black. in fact from the blackness. it was the summer 1998 while in political and social terms the President Clinton’s and Lewinsky’s scandal was on everyone’s mind. It is Coleman who wants to live his life as an individual and not as a representative of his race which is a barrier for him throughout his life. the affair of Clinton and Lewinsky is used as a background for the sexual affair between Coleman Silk with a thirty-four year old woman named Faunia Farley. Coleman Silk quits his position as professor and dean of the faculty. self-transformation and personal identity that define a human being. So. BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY 3 . It is the fact of being black which leads his character and life to an abyss which Coleman creates with the desire of escaping from himself. Another important fact in Coleman’s life was him being a light skinned black deriving from a black family. and life. which tells the story of a former college professor. Roth suggests similarities between labeling Clinton because of his affair with Lewinsky who was less than half of his age and using the same allegation against the 71-year old Coleman Silk because of his affair with 34-year old Faunia. What we see in the beginning of the novel is that Coleman was falsely accused for being a racist by the college where he has been working for more than forty years. personal identity. “The Human Stain” is a trilogy of Roth that explores the relationship between public and private life in America during the second half of the 20th century. In other words the novel dramatizes powerfully the secrecy. after being falsely accused of racism. Precisely. Coleman Silk who actually is one of the major characters in the novel. But he chooses to deny his roots and make his race as a more complex issue than actually it was.*** A contemporary novel “The Human Stain” written by Philip Roth and published first in 2000. A novel set in late 1990’s New England. In other words racial discrimination. secrets and lies are themes that are inevitable in the novel. Actually.

and religious aspect which are the motives of each individual figure. Philip Roth was in 1933 New Jersey U. It wasn’t only the racism probably the most important issue within the 4 .*** Before I mention the aim of this seminar paper that I have done for this novel by Philip Roth. I saw the treatment of the cultural war despite the historical war. three PEN/Faulkner Awards. and a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I want to analyze a bit from the author’s life and work in short. but a small percentage of it I pop. I also noticed the racial identity as an issue still talked about. an American novelist and short story writer. ethnicity.S. and the morality of the time when the novel was written. and political correctness as dominant. He was quite a successful writer and one of the America’s most award winning authors. who actually was being the most racist among all the others. There is the issue and the conditions of historical moments in Post-War American life. The author implies the significant changes that were happening in the world. It wasn’t only the purpose of my research to find the main topics or just to through them in sentences. Roth has also written short stories and satire. The research is provided by the whole text of “The Human Stain” written by Philip Roth that was published in 2001. whom Roth uses as an alter ego and as a kind of a personal and artistic growth of him. I must mention that in the very beginning of the book as I always do with the other books was to create and end of it with my own thoughts and imagination. As far as I mentioned some specifics of the author I must mention that Roth created a character named Nathan Zuckerman which is also used here as a narrator. which have had a great impact on the generations. including personal nature. Though I wasn’t the one to guess the exact end of it. this was more or less one of the important things that lead me as a reader to be more curious for a novel and read with an appetite. Personally. and other resources written on this book. It deals more with our daily life issues that are actually a taboo. I have noticed that the novel deals with something more than the relationship between two opposite people. So. whose life was dedicated to lies and secrets. especially in terms of morality and social life. but for me it was a challenge to face such a character as Coleman Silk. He has won the National Book Awards twice. A novel which shows evidently the acceptance and the recognition of the individual in society. In addition he to his well received novels.

who also becomes ironic. 5 . dealing with Coleman’s. It was a characteristic that the author Philip Roth is being quite sincere to tell all things in an open way. and sexuality.novel. the search for identity and the role of family and the importance of honesty. Faunia’s and Nathan’s hidden past from what each of the characters were escaping. gender. So the themes in this book range from the issues related to power. but also the difference or the otherness of black people in society’s mind and life that wasn’t changing. Another thing that I have noticed is the dramatic conflict between the characters and their secrets hidden about their true identities.

He knew that the prejudice against his race could limit his aspirations and his dreams and desires. aged seventy-one who was accused for being a racist by using the word “spooks”1 referring to two absent students who haven’t been to any lecture since the semester started. 2000. Growing up Coleman had experienced racism from other people or other random individuals. which is in a wider range while we go deep in the novel and relate other significant issues in it. The story is told by Nathan Zuckerman. p. Coleman desperately decides to leave the school and quit his job as a professor. United States. again it was enough all those things that happened to him to end up his enthusiasm for work. but this wasn’t enough for them to stop accusing him. p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. suffered a stroke which lead her to early death for what Coleman blames the College.“Racial discrimination and Personal Identity” This novel takes place in 1998’s in a small Northern New England town that is at the same time home to the prestigious Athena College. Though Coleman is innocent of the charges brought against him. The situation wasn’t only the word “spooks”2 or the early ending of his career as a professor. a writer who lives quietly in New England whose neighbor is Coleman Silk a professor of classics and the dean of the faculty in Athena College. Coleman Silk an old man. Coleman’s wife too who was supporting his husband during these hard times. In the beginning we are faced with a novel that appears to be a novel about racial discrimination. There was a charge of racism brought against Coleman by the two missing students who turned out to be black. From all these that happens to him. All these conditions that being a nigger brought made him realize how painful would be 1 Philip Roth: The Human Stain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. and the word spooks secondary meaning was sometimes applied to black people. Though Coleman defended himself that he used the word in the primary meaning as a ghost. 2000. or even the death of his wife. United States. who has passed as white since his early twenties and continued it through his lifetime. It was a more complex issue that included the racial discrimination of a human being who actually was himself a light skinned black man.4 2Philip Roth: The Human Stain.6 6 .

7 . and brought him to the state of making the decision of passing as white and change once and forever the direction in his life.to inhabit with his skin color.

irony is the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. It is an absurd submission what Coleman’s mother offer to him as an alternative for a withdrawn right of a grandmother to see and meet her grandchildren. She refers to Coleman with these words: “There was always something about our family.138 8 . which is one of the most natural will’s of a grandparent. 3 Philip Roth: The Human Stain. culture and society that one has to feel unfit and cannot prove the identity of itself without accepting himself. Coleman Brutus. You think like a prisoner. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. In a way Coleman’s mother degrades her family status. United States. of her not being able to see her grandchildren. 2000. It is clearly a common disease among everyone. it was Coleman who actually wasn’t accepting his own identity.So the issue was more the escape from oneself or the denial of one’s real identity. and I don’t mean color-there was something about us that impeded you. p. You do. When Coleman’s mother gets to know his decision about marrying a white girl and abandoning his family she becomes sad. You’re white as snow and you think like a slave. symbolic one. There is also irony seen within the novel in some situations. and thinks that this decision of Coleman is wrong and tragic. which shows a characteristic of the mentality of a slave. She once again thinks like a slave when she offers even to be the babysitter of her grandchildren in order to see them. “ I’m never going to know my grandchildren” “You’re never going to let them see me”. she said4. because this issue touches her own identity. That. United States.139 4 Philip Roth: The Human Stain. So.”3 With these words Coleman’s mother implies irony. but before I mention and cite one of them I want to give a definition of irony. 2000. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

United States. When we refer back to his early life when Coleman was young and fond of boxing and became a professional within time. the examwhatever’s to be mastered become that thing. let nothing else in. The human stain and people’s idealistic desire for perfection is established clearly in this novel. friendship or uncertainty not only in boxing but even in himself. at church and during all her life. at home. and the same way that he thought in school or in race: rule everything else out. Living his life as a robot that has no human features or emotions was a specific of Coleman’s hidden personality. It was in his personality to manage himself and to be able to ignore his feelings of fear. It is once again seen how the harshness of being the ‘other’ or in other words a ‘nigger’ that makes Coleman’s life an enigma full of lies and secrets.54 9 . Coleman feels that his color stains him in society where being the other. though secretly from his family. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. in school. whom Coleman loved and wanted to marry again we see the discrimination against him. Because as soon as Steena has the opportunity to meet Coleman’s family she gets to know that they are black. 2000. and immerse yourself in the thing. and that this is quite an obstacle for her knowing that. He wanted to become what he aimed to. and for this he gave away everything including his family and himself. a Scandinavian-raised. just as he was. Though this was catching him everywhere. So. the competition.Even when we refer to his private life. but Coleman was never tired of escaping it again and again. p. this was his personality both in boxing and biology.”5 This was Coleman in other words. and go back to his relationship with Steena Paulson. an Afro-American makes one the object of prejudice. 5 Philip Roth: The Human Stain. Steena Paulson was a blond Icelandic Dane from a long line of blond Icelanders and Danes. the subject. “Coleman thought. she refuses to marry Coleman and leaves him. love. He even in boxing was hiding his own identity.

when Coleman tries and reaches to hide his personality and his family from everyone. Before I end up the paper I want to move to the beginning of the novel where there is a citation of Oedipus the King from Sophocles: “Roth starts the novel with an epigraph from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. There are huge and varied situations told from the narrative that the characters go through and that’s the “beauty and uniqueness” of the novel. Early in tragedy. p. This work of Roth though being the first one I had the opportunity to read. Chelsea House Publishers 2003. Making it harder for the reader to focus only on one event that is happening or the same event repeating itself within the novel and giving you the condition of being neither there or onwards. Oedipus asks: “What is the rite of purification? How shall it be done?” Creon replies: “By banishing a man or expiation of blood by blood”. It is a story of a black man passing as white in order to be free. like Oedipus leaves his parents (Oedipus. of course leaves those he believes are his parents) and starts new life in the white community. Just as Oedipus believes that he has escaped the destiny of marrying his mother and killing his father. Coleman feels that his color stains him in society and his desire for purification convinces him to pass as white. 6 Harold Bloom: Bloom’s modern Critical Views-Philip Roth. Coleman. and the consequences for the individual and society are profound and serious. until he declares this to Faunia and Nathan later. but Coleman lacks the catharsis of the tragedy which brings the story in to a repetition of the same event and condition but without reaching its peak. Oedipus is a tragedy itself both having the catharsis. He thinks that by marrying a white woman and siring white children he can attain freedom and purification. The story when a parent denies a child or a child denies his/her parents. conveys me to go on and read the other books of his as soon as possible. “6 Roth was in a way dramatizing the tragicomedy of an African-American who wants to pass all his life as white.256 10 . so does Coleman assume that he has avoided the fate of a black man by passing as white.CONCLUSION *** The self-transformation and the escape from oneself is figured in the most extra-ordinary way. To do that.

State University of New York Press. Chelsea House Publishers 2003 4. 2003 11 . Halio and Ben Siegel: Turning Up the Flame-Philip Roth’s later Novels. http://www. Safer: Mocking the Age. United States. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Philip Roth: The Human Stain. 2000 2. Albany. Harold Bloom: Bloom’s modern Critical Views-Philip Roth.com/EBchecked/topic/510549/Philip-Roth 3. 2006 5. Elain. University of Delaware Press.BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Jay-L. B.britannica.