Study Guide

American Pastoral Merry's Belongings

By Philip Roth

Merry's Belongings

Swede hands over a number of Merry's childhood possessions—including ballet slippers and a scrapbook full of pictures of Audrey Hepburn—to Rita Cohen in the hopes of somehow reaching Merry four months after she disappears. The more sinister Rita becomes, the more these items take on a symbolic light.

Since they are now gone from the Swede forever, they function symbolically in his mind. They represent the loss of the joy in Merry's childhood—the items are almost cartoonishly girly and innocent—and the frustration and powerlessness he feels in the face of her situation.

Since the Swede gives the items to Rita, they become symbols of his feelings that he's somehow given Merry over to the dark side of life. Together the items become a still life of Merry's girlhood struggle to appear beautiful and "normal" in a world that seems to grow more alien from her every day.

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