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Here's the opposite of Rita Cohen (a character who may or may not be real even within the confines of the novel within American Pastoral): Angela Davis. This is a real person, an influential figure in the Civil Rights Movement. During the years of Merry's disappearance, she's very visible in the news.
In American Pastoral she becomes the Swede's imaginary friend, so to speak, and he spends his evenings having imaginary discussions with her in his kitchen while waiting for Rita Cohen to come to the house and tell him where Merry is.