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A Character Analysis of Steven Rojack

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Essay title: A Character Analysis of Steven Rojack

In almost every genre of literature, there is the classic antagonist, and the classic protagonist. When examining these characters, there are certain guidelines which authors follow. However, there are times in literature when the classic guidelines are broken, and a new prototype emerges. Contemporary writer Norman Mailer broke the mold of the classic character(s) when writing the novel An American Dream. In An American Dream, there is no set protagonist or antagonist. In fact, Mailer has taken these two separate identities and merged them into one character. The product is the main character of the novel, Steven Rojack. Throughout the novel, the readers are not sure whether they want him to succeed or fail. This is due to Rojack's ever-changing personality. At first, he seems like the perfect man: a decorated war hero who knows all the right people. However, shortly after this impression is made, another is formed. He murders his wife in cold blood and lies to the police, claiming she committed suicide. At first, this act frees Rojack from an evil and an exterior antagonist, both being Deborah. However, without this exterior antagonist, he is instead left to struggle with his inner self, and he slowly emerges into his own antagonist. As the novel continues, however, Rojack realizes the horror of his crime and even confesses what he has done to a woman he confides in. Due to the realization of his crime, he is redeemed in the eye of the reader. From this point on, the reader wants Rojack to succeed. However, before final judgment can be passed, it is imperative that Rojack's entire character be explored, including the transitions he made from an ordinary character into being both the novel’s antagonist and protagonist.

Being portrayed in the novel as an ordinary flat character, Rojack is first introduced as a prominent man in society who becomes recognized due to his decoration in military service. Through this service he becomes close with many famous politicians, Jack Kennedy being one. It is through Jack that Rojack meets his first wife, Deborah, a woman who he describes "would be bored with a diamond as big as the Ritz" (Mailer 1). After serving a term in Congress, he and Deborah marry. Unfortunately, the relationship they have is one in which Deborah has full control. As he continues to describe the relationship with his wife, it is often filled with bitter memories. He remembers going to parties where she would compare his worth to that of another man's. It is from this that a bitter hatred stems towards Deborah, a hatred that is most likely the cause of Rojack’s ever-changing personality. As a result of this hatred, and after seven years of marriage, they separate. However, after the separation, Deborah's needs are still covered by Rojack, and in addition to this, she maintains a close contact with him, seeing him whenever she desires. She relishes the thought of having control over him, and he realizes this. It is because of Deborah’s over-powering characteristics that Rojack feels the way he does about her.

So I hated her, yes indeed I did, but my hatred was a cage which wired my love, and I did not know if I had the force to find my way free. Marriage to her was the armature of my ego; remove the armature and I might topple like clay. (23)

At this point in the novel, Rojack comes across as an egocentric man with the potential to have an extreme temper, and therefore turns into his own antagonist. Many times throughout the beginning of the novel, the reader may questions his sanity due to the fact that he often thinks about many morbid issues. As a result of this, it can be said that Rojack is in constant conflict with himself, and because of this, problems arise with others. After leaving a party that was held at his close friend's house, Rojack once again feels alone and bitter. While standing outside on the balcony, he contemplates what would happen if he were to jump and shortly after this, he decides to leave. The thoughts that possess Rojack’s mind helps convince the reader that Rojack is indeed in the midst of a conflict against himself, and is therefore his own antagonist. Meanwhile, as he walks home in the pouring rain, he stops at a pay phone feeling the need to call Deborah. During their conversation, Deborah insists that Rojack come over. Although his better judgments tell him not to go, he goes nonetheless. As he enters Deborah's room, he can see her lying on her bed with a bottle of rum close by. The moment she sees him enter, she begins to insult him. As the conversation continues, Rojack becomes extremely blunt in responding to Deborah's insults. The tension begins to escalate, thus flaring both of their tempers, while showing a side of Rojack that the reader has rarely seen. Suddenly, Rojack slaps Deborah across the face. As the fight continues, Rojack’s interior antagonist is vividly revealed and

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