Study Guide

American Pastoral Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Philip Roth

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

American Pastoral is a tragedy, told mostly from the perspective of Seymour "Swede" Levov, the main character, the tragic hero. But, the Swede isn't a good fit for the Booker tragic hero—a hero who does specific things that ultimately lead to his own destruction.

Part of why the novel is so powerful is because it's impossible (arguably!) to say if the Swede could have done something differently, something to keep his daughter from building and dropping bombs. Plus, while the tragedy of Merry will stay with him all his life, the Swede rebuilds his life afterwards with his second wife and his three sons. Booker's plot ends with the hero's complete destruction.

We considered using Merry as the tragic hero, but she doesn't fit either. What she could have done differently is obvious—not bomb the post office. But since the story is never really from her point of view we don't know if she goes through the different stages of the Booker hero. We don't even know for sure that she is guilty.

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