Study Guide

The Graduating Class in American Pastoral

By Philip Roth

The Graduating Class

If Zuckerman hadn't gone to his forty-fifth high school reunion in 1995, he might never have run into Jerry, and might never have learned of Merry, and never imagined the secret life of the Swede. One notable figure from Zuckerman's past is Mendy Gurlick, who taught Zuckerman "to jerk off" (2.43) and introduced him to black music and culture in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Another is Joy Helpern, who Zuckerman dated in school. He learns she didn't take things farther with him because she didn't want him to see how poor her family was after her father died. Zuckerman is dancing with her to "Dream" (see "What's Up with the Epigraph") when he begins imagining the Swede's story. Being at his reunion puts Zuckerman in the mood to explore the past.

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