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Portnoy's Complaint (Roth) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. After Portnoy was published, many Jewish critics felt it demeaned the Jewish family and culture. Do you agree or disagree. Do you find Roth's depiction of the Portnoy family mean-spirited...or humorously loving?

2. Roth writes about a Jewish boy growing into manhood, but a New York Times reviewer (see above) calls it a "catholic" work in that it deals with universal, not just Jewish, themes. Agree or disagree? How so?

3. What is Alexander's issue with is family? Why his resentment? From where does his sense of guilt stem? Is he self-loving or self-loathing?

4. Discuss the character of Mrs. Portnoy—what kind of mother and wife is she? (See Alana Newhouse's comments on NPR above)

5. Alexander eventually finds his way to Israel. What does he seem to be searching for...what understanding does he reach?

6. Do you find the book is funny?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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