Everyone Knows

Roth Studies, volume 5 (2009), number 1

The downfall of Coleman Silk, main character of The Human Stain, resembles the fate fallen upon the heroes of the ancient Greek tragedy. In Philip Roth’s contemporary tragedy, public opinion plays the role of a judging and condemning chorus. The omnipresent threat that flows from this chorus is perfectly expressed in the vague, but devastating “everyone knows” that precedes the accusations that will demolish the career, the family and almost the mental health of the protagonist. Roth intertwines the fiction with the historical reality the novel arises from. In this way, he reveals the strict social control public opinion works, as well as its common punishment mechanisms.