Posted by: 律音 | November 25, 2011

Which is the more dire of the two? Paralyzed with disease, or fear?

Have you ever wondered what life would be like without illness? Have you ever thought about how your life would change if children you knew from around the block all fell with the same disease, with no known cure? Children who you played with just three days ago unable to walk, paralyzed with polio and fear? Nemesis, by Philip Roth stuns readers with the responsibility of having to be in charge of kids in danger of getting polio. Philip Roth helps you look at things with a new perspective, and portrays the hardships of the polio epidemic that took place in 1944. This  book is fiction, based on a real polio epidemic in Newark’s Weequahic section. Mr. Cantor, the protagonist, is a Physical Educations teacher and is in charge of the playground in the Weequahic section for the summer, when polio cases spread throughout the neighborhood. This book is about how Mr. Cantor deals with his responsibility over the kids, and the journey that he takes emotionally.

Mr. Cantor, or Bucky, struggles to understand why all the healthy children must be struck with such a disease, and what will become of them. He leaves his playground for a short period of time in fear of the virus and cowers over his responsibility of the kids back in Newark.

This book is not only concentrated on the polio epidemic, but also the fallibility of God and unfairness of fate. Bucky has problems understanding why children so innocent must be harmed, even killed. His grandparents being Jewish, he was also raised as one, but as the story moves on he develops new feelings towards God, and why he allows bad things to happen to innocent people.

The author, Philip Roth has a habit of tying the most nicely portrayed character with the worst fate, so readers will be kept on their toes in Nemesis. My telling you more would spoil the whole story, so just keep in mind that not all books end the way you expect them to, and let yourself travel back into Newark, 1944 during the horrifying polio epidemic.


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