As it follows the relationship between Neil Klugman and his girlfriend, Brenda Patimkin, Goodbye, Columbus explores the narrator’s struggle for self-knowledge as well as the themes of Jewish identity and class divisions. Neil Klugman is from a lower-middle class family in Newark, while Brenda Patimkin is from a suburban upper-middle class family. Their relationship is laden with the stark differences of the classes to which they belong, even though they share a similar cultural heritage.
The novella is written with irony and a sense of humor, and is thought to be roughly based on the writer’s own life. Philip Roth himself was born into a lower-middle class Jewish family in Newark.
About the author
Isabel Harris Eide remembers reading Goodbye, Columbus as a high school senior in a gender and sexuality English course. The novella, written by Philip Roth in 1959, is narrated by the character Neil Klugman, a 23-year-old Jewish man living in Newark, New Jersey. Currently a psychology student at University of Miami, the book is still Isabel Harris Eide’s favorite.