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His childhood has led him to become obsessed with the value of money, and he hates his father-in-law because he had to ask him for money to start his store. His history of violence goes back to his very early childhood, when his father had to hold him down on his bed, repeating "you will not be violent" over and over again. Max is Harry's brother. A good-humored man, he tells the important story of how their father had tried to make Harry less violent.

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Although he tells the story in an amused manner, it only serves to make Harry angry. Max is not embarrassed about his poor childhood, and he is the brother who remembers family history. Lonely and frustrated, she shelters an escaped German POW and ends up being put on trial for treason. She is an outcast in multiple ways: because she is Jewish; her family is wealthy; and she is perceived as a failure by her parents. By the end of the novel, Patty has also become an outcast from her country—her unpatriotic harboring of a POW is judged to be treason.

Patty strongly feels this isolation. She copes with her boredom, frustration, and loneliness by escaping into her own world of make-believe, exaggeration, and lies. These practices lead her into even more trouble, isolation, and parental disapproval. By the end of the novel, Patty has gained an understanding of the consequences of her actions, the reality of family relationships, and the racial prejudices of her society.

However, she still has a long way to go. Summer of My German Soldier is a study of Patty's developing mind, and the novel ends before she has completely matured.

Summer of My German Soldier

Pearl is Patty's selfish and uncaring mother. She is a born saleswoman who is especially good at talking poor women into spending too much money. The pet of her own family, she refuses to grow up and still expects constant gifts and special treatment from her parents, Grandma and Grandpa Fried. Patty feels that she is unattractive compared to her mother, and her mother does nothing to dissuade her of that.

She is constantly comparing her to other girls her age as well as her younger sister, faulting her for her lack of femininity. She sometimes talks to people about her in her presence while acting as if she were not there. Sharon is Patty's little sister. She is too young to play an active part in the story, but is used repeatedly as an example of everything that Patty is not.

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Quiet, beautiful, and well-behaved, Sharon spends much of the book out of the arena of action playing in her sandbox with friends of the same age. Unlike her mother, Sharon is an extremely affectionate child and adores Patty and Ruth. Sheriff Cauldwell is one of the few sympathetic adults in Patty's life. Initially believing Patty's story about the way she got the ring, Cauldwell forbids her father from taking it away from her. It is apparent that he knows about Patty's home life and wishes to do what he can to make her life more bearable.

Freddy is "poor white trash" who tries his best to befriend Patty. Her father forbids her even to speak to him, as Freddy is considered too poor to be a suitable companion.

Grandma Fried is Patty's maternal grandmother. She is most concerned with feeding and caring for her family. She expresses her love for Patty through secret gifts of money and day trips, since Patty's parents live too far away for daily visits. Patty briefly thinks that her Grandma will be the caring mother figure that she so desperately wants, but feels angry and rejected when she does not fulfill this role. Grandpa Fried is a retired and prosperous businessman. Fond of his family and happy to receive visitors, he has, by the admission of his own family, gotten much "more nice" after his exit from the business world.

His face has gone from "resolute to gentle," and he "still has his hair. Ruth is the housekeeper and nurse for the Bergen family and a substitute mother for both Patty and Sharon. She is a proud woman who tries to instill a sense of personal pride into Patty.


As an African-American woman in the old South, her pride is, as she says, "all she's got. Ruth is sympathetic to Anton's plight—both because he is Patty's friend and because he reminds her of her son fighting overseas. A reporter from Memphis, Charlene first comes into Patty's life after Anton escapes. She appears ready to befriend Patty, and remarks on her precocious intelligence.

Charlene gives Patty a subscription to her newspaper, The Commercial Appeal , and covers the story of Patty's trial. She later writes to her in prison. He threatens Patty, and later shows her both the shirt she gave Anton and the newspaper clipping about his death. He is found and shot while resisting capture.

Anton first meets Patty in her parents' store and surprises her by speaking perfect English. This, combined with his civility and charming nature, causes Patty to think of him as a person rather than a German soldier.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene – Retro Review by Amy Koester

Anton is well-educated and unsympathetic to the Nazi cause. He was destined to be a doctor before the war destroyed his plans, and is an attractive and well-spoken man. Just as Patty doesn't think of him as a "real" German, the novel is careful to show that he is, in fact, not entirely German: one of his parents is English.

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His character breaks stereotypes about German citizens. At first, it seems that Anton is taking advantage of Patty. However, he redeems himself when he risks his own life to save Patty from her father's beating. A middle-aged woman who works at the Bergens' store, Mary Wren also known as Sister Wren is described as "the gossip. The most important theme of Summer of My German Soldier is the separation of racial and ethnic groups. Patty's religion, Ruth's race, and the prejudices of Jenkinsville all play against each other to illustrate the problematic racial politics of rural Southern culture in the s.

The inherent racism of the South is illustrated most obviously through the character of Ruth, the family's maid. She rarely talks about the daily prejudice she faces, but the reality of her situation is revealed in several key scenes. In one such episode, a neighbor demands that the family fire Ruth for her "uppityness. As she says, "Ruth isn't one bit uppity. Merely prideful. Because of this, Ruth is immediately drawn to Anton's plight.

He is hunted, imprisoned, and cast out from the world for being German, just as Ruth is despised for being black. Initially, the Bergen family's Judaism is not an obvious issue in either the novel or the town. At times this seems to be deliberate, as when the family discusses the fate of their relatives in Nazi-occupied parts of Europe. When Grandmother Fried says she worries because she has not heard from their relatives in quite some time, there is only silence in response. Any intimations of anti-Semitism in their town are subtle.

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Most obviously, her father is not granted extra rations of gas to go to a synagogue forty miles away since it is deemed a waste of resources. More subtly, Harry's minority status forces him to go along with the majority opinion. For instance, Harry does not try to stop the townspeople from evicting a Chinese-American storekeeper after war with Japan is declared. However, when Patty is revealed as the one who sheltered Anton, suddenly her and her family's Jewishness becomes a factor. Her father expresses outrage that she, as a Jew, would help a Nazi. Moreover, the townspeople deride her with cries of "Jew-Nazi.

Anton, Patty, and Ruth have complex personal identities that are in conflict with national identity and patriotism. Anton Reiker is a divided character: both a Nazi and a German, the book serves to humanize him and define him in much broader terms. Educated, polite, and a speaker of perfect English, Anton cannot be seen as simply a German Nazi soldier.

By hiding him, Patty is considered as treasonous and subversive; her Jewish heritage exacerbates the public outcry against her.

Summer of My German Soldier Themes

Ruth is not patriotic, which stems from her treatment as a second-class citizen; because of her feelings toward the dominant culture and the way that it has treated both herself and her son, Ruth feels no particular loyalty to it. This enables Ruth to help Anton when she finds out that Patty is hiding him, so that she too is guilty of "collaboration with the enemy.

Throughout Summer of My German Solider , morality is often indicated by a character's ability to see beyond stereotypes. Many of the business leaders of Jenkinsville are identified as immoral through their "patriotic" act of evicting a Chinese grocer in response to Japanese aggression.

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The POW camp doctor, on the other hand, is demarcated as a morally sound character through his sensitive understanding of Anton.