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compare the ways roths the plot against america and mcewans saturday present and balance the personal and the political

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Introduction

COMPARE THE WAYS ROTH'S 'THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA' AND MCEWAN'S 'SATURDAY' PRESENT AND BALANCE THE PERSONAL AND THE POLITICAL Published within five months of each other (in September 2004 and February 2005 respectively), 'The Plot Against America' and 'Saturday' cover very different situations. 'Saturday' examines society post-9/11, a disaster which has been imprinted onto the collective consciousness of society at present; Roth scrutinises a society from a different time in a completely hypothetical scenario. Despite this superficial difference, both novels explore how the wider political scene and the private, personal lives of their respective protagonists interact. In doing so, McEwan and Roth employ both similar and dissimilar techniques with regards to the respective structures and narrative styles. When considering the impacts of the differing structures employed in the two novels on the presentation and balance of the personal and political, the ways in which Roth and McEwan begin their novels are critical. It is made immediately clear that they are both overtly political novels, but this similarity is conveyed to the reader in very different ways. McEwan opens 'Saturday' with an epigraph, taken from Saul Bellow's 'Herzog'. Bellow's novel concerns the eponymous character's addiction to his own intellect and ideas, and his consequent inability to function successfully in the outside world. The epigraph itself assesses "what it means to be a man" in the modern world, going on to state that every person must act in union with society, or else be an "idiot". ...read more.

Middle

G�rard Genette, a French literary theorist, made the distinction between the two forms of narration which are on show in the novels, dubbing one 'homodiegetic' and the other 'heterodiegetic'. McEwan employs the latter, also known as 'figural narrative', where the narrator is a third-person internal focaliser. While employing this heterodiegetic narration though, McEwan split the focalisation into two. The narrative in 'Saturday' is split between Perowne's perspective (presented by the third-person internal focaliser) and an implied author, an omniscient narrative force which extends beyond Perowne. An example of this split focalisation of narrative can be seen in the third section of the novel, or more precisely when Perowne is sitting in his car listening to the news. First comes a description of what Perowne hears ("Those who stay in their beds this Saturday morning will curse themselves they are not here") followed by his views on the matter ("He doubts that Theo will be cursing himself"). The initial description, whilst having pretensions at objectivity, has undertones of Perowne's cynicism; this exemplifies the half-internal, half-external focalisation of narrative which McEwan uses in 'Saturday'. By using this split focalised narrative, McEwan conveys Perowne's feelings at all times (as the writing always has shades of subjectivity), but also gives the sense that there is an omniscient narrator present, independently reporting Perowne's actions. This partnership between Perowne's consciousness and the omniscient narrator is the way in which McEwan presents Perowne's views. The omniscient narrator picks up on external details with relative objectivity, and these observations are then tempered by Perowne's viewpoint. ...read more.

Conclusion

The real micro/macro balance concerns the balance between personal autonomy (which Perowne craves at the novel's beginning) and personal responsibility (which Perowne appears to learn by the novel's close); the role of the wider arena (such as the news, especially when Perowne sees the news during his squash match: "Isn't it possible to enjoy an hour's recreation without this invasion, this infection from the public domain?"), is to serve as a parallel to personal responsibility. At this stage in the novel, just as Perowne craves autonomy and no interruption from the public domain, he wants nothing to do with personal responsibility, wanting only to enjoy himself. The real balance in 'Saturday', then, is encapsulated within the personal, with the political running alongside to strengthen the destination. By contrast, Roth makes it abundantly clear that the personal and political are intimately connected, that the political funnels directly into the personal rather than running alongside it, while McEwan's use of the political is quasi-allegorical. The immediacy of both the narrative and the beginning of 'The Plot Against America' is indicative of this more direct and natural approach to a balance where the political and personal are symbiotic and, fundamentally, real. The beginning and narration of 'Saturday' indicate a novel overtly concerned with ideas, with how wider interaction with the private is perceived. 'Saturday' details a change in an individual psyche with focus on ideas and viewpoint; 'The Plot Against America' details a change in actual circumstance with emphasis on the physical manifestation of the political as personal: in both novels, the personal and political are used in very different ways, with McEwan's formulaic purpose set against Roth's forthright storytelling. ...read more.

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