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The Plot Against America This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     November 1940: Charles A. Lindbergh, the famous aviator, defeats incumbent President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with 57% of the popular vote, sweeping 46 of the 48 states. The President signs the Iceland Understanding, the guarantee of “peaceful relations between Germany and the United States,” and America does not enter World War II in 1941.

Philip Roth's novel, The Plot Against America, is the quintessence of a “what if” scenario: it depicts the events from 1940 to 1942 from Lindbergh's nomination for presidency by the Republicans. Written as an autobiography, Roth bases the novel in his childhood home of Newark, New Jersey and narrates it as himself, a seven-year-old Jewish boy named Philip.

Roth uses Lindbergh as a springboard for his fantasy. He was America's hero, pitied because of the kidnapping of his baby and admired for his flying exploits. Lindbergh was also the figurehead for the popular America First party, which opposed World War II. In many of Lindbergh's diary entries and letters, he praised Hitler as “undoubtedly a great man” and feared “the infiltration of inferior blood.”

By toying with the idea that many Americans were against the war, Roth creates this alternate history, where the slogan “Vote for Lindbergh or vote for war” wins the votes.

After Lindbergh is elected, the Roth family visits Washington, where they are singled out because of their religion. Philip's older brother is selected by a program run by the new Office of American Absorption to introduce “city youth to the traditional ways of heartland life.”

Although Roth's book is rich in detail, his drawn-out pace can be unnerving. At some points, the writing slides to the verge of boring, but the plot is so gripping that the book is hard to put down. The story climbs subtly from one event to another and finally to the chaotic climax. However, Roth seems to have lost inspiration toward the end and the storyline collapses.

Like many authors, Roth asks us to revisit who we are and how susceptible we can be. But instead of doing his questioning in a futuristic setting, like Orwell or Bradbury, Roth frames it with events that we know happened (like Hitler's invasion of Russia). This makes the arguments of the book even more plausible.

Published shortly before the 2004 election, Roth's book is a lens with which to examine the conflicts we are engaged in, from the war in Iraq to a world-wide disagreement about freedom. The Plot Against America urges us to remain vigilant and to latch onto our liberties.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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