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"Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan": Tragic Populism in Philip Roth's America
Unformatted Document Text:  16 been asking him for all month long while knowing only obscurely what she was asking for” (91). Levov is haunted by this incident throughout his life: “The kiss? That is it? So beastly? How could a kiss make someone into a criminal? The aftermath of the kiss? The withdrawal? Was that the beastliness?” (92). There is no equivalent incident with respect to Reinghold’s and Silk’s daughters but a psychic incestual climate is nevertheless clearly evident. Lisa is a speech therapist and when her father remarks that one of her students is pretty, she retorts, “Yes, you find her pretty? You like that type? Is that your type, Dad, the pretty slow-at-reading type with long blond hair and the broken will and butterfly barrettes?” (163). Sylphid, the step daughter, is, according to Reingold, motivated by her attempts to assert a droit de fille but her actions are a thinly disguised as a droit d’epouse as well since her demand that her mother abort her child is as much a projection of spousal rejection as daughterly resentment. These silenced daughters who speak with a stutter (Merry), seek to help others speak (Lisa) or seek to speak through music (Syphid, the professional harpist) act out their fury in the context of post-war populist moments. Sylphid manipulates her mother into exposing her step-father as a Communist. Merry bombs a post office in protest of bourgeois culture. viii Lisa sides with her father’s feminist critics who charge that he is sexually exploiting the college janitor. In a more general way also these women are the victims of the “passing” of their fathers. The husbands are enthralled with their new homes in the same manner that they once were enthralled by the acquistion of their wives. Levov confesses that he is more pleased by this ownership of the trees on his property than his factory since there were

Authors: Abbott, Philip.
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been asking him for all month long while knowing only obscurely what she was asking
for” (91). Levov is haunted by this incident throughout his life: “The kiss? That is it? So
beastly? How could a kiss make someone into a criminal? The aftermath of the kiss? The
withdrawal? Was that the beastliness?” (92).
There is no equivalent incident with respect to Reinghold’s and Silk’s daughters
but a psychic incestual climate is nevertheless clearly evident. Lisa is a speech therapist
and when her father remarks that one of her students is pretty, she retorts, “Yes, you find
her pretty? You like that type? Is that your type, Dad, the pretty slow-at-reading type with
long blond hair and the broken will and butterfly barrettes?” (163). Sylphid, the step
daughter, is, according to Reingold, motivated by her attempts to assert a droit de fille but
her actions are a thinly disguised as a droit d’epouse as well since her demand that her
mother abort her child is as much a projection of spousal rejection as daughterly
resentment.
These silenced daughters who speak with a stutter (Merry), seek to help others
speak (Lisa) or seek to speak through music (Syphid, the professional harpist) act out
their fury in the context of post-war populist moments. Sylphid manipulates her mother
into exposing her step-father as a Communist. Merry bombs a post office in protest of
bourgeois culture.
viii
Lisa sides with her father’s feminist critics who charge that he is
sexually exploiting the college janitor.
In a more general way also these women are the victims of the “passing” of their
fathers. The husbands are enthralled with their new homes in the same manner that they
once were enthralled by the acquistion of their wives. Levov confesses that he is more
pleased by this ownership of the trees on his property than his factory since there were


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