Marcus Messner begins his sophomore year at Winesburg College. He is happy to finally leave his family, his father, a butcher, and his mother, always afraid. The college is quite conservative and from the start Marcus has problems adapting. For him, as a Jew, life is especially difficult. First, rather unsatisfying experiences with girls, the strict rules of the college and the Korean War looming – Marcus feels his life has already ended before it really began.
Philip Roth’s way of writing always catapults you into the life and head of his characters. Now, a small college in a rural area in 1951. It is not too easy this time to get a feeling of the setting, especially since “Indignation” is a rather short novel. The family structures, Marcus feeling of dependence and obligation towards his parents was understandable but it all remained a bit too distant from me as a reader. Also the development of the relationships – this is surely due to the fact that our lives are completely different today. A more in depth description and analysis might have revealed more about Marcus’ struggles here. His desperation and longing for a life to be lived nevertheless becomes clear and shows, eventually, that for some people this world has nothing to offer.