Accused of being a racist, Coleman Silk is forced to retire from Athena College, a fictional school in western Massachusetts, where he was employed as a dean and classics professor. Silk's wife suddenly dies, and he begins an affair with the much younger Faunia Farley.
Though the story is a product of Roth's imagination, the time represented, in American history, is very real. The novel, set in 1998, looms in the shadow of President Clinton's impeachment hearings. The Human Stain is the third in a trilogy, proceeding American Pastoral and I Married a Communist. In all three works, Roth employs overarching conceits that allow him to explore larger social issues, reflecting various periods in the 20th century.
The 2003 film , directed by Robert Benton and written by Nicholas Meyer, stars Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris.