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Free Study Guide for Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES


CHAPTER 21


Summary

Patty and Ruth discuss how, one day, she wants to be a reporter under the pen name, “Antonia Alexander” (225). Patty is interested in writing her first article about the conditions at the Bolton Reformatory.

Miss Laud returns and tells Ruth that her visiting time is up and she must leave. Patty becomes very upset and Ruth talks them in to giving she and Patty time to express their goodbyes. Patty becomes upset that she has nothing to give Ruth before she leaves. The book closes with Ruth leaving the reformatory and closing the door in between her and Patty.


Notes

In the beginning of this chapter we feel very sad for Patty; as Ruth is leaving we realize that Patty is now losing the only other person who has ever loved her. Throughout the entire novel we know that Patty loves Ruth, by her actions and her comfort with Ruth. Patty and Ruth spend a lovely visit together at the reformatory but Ruth must eventually leave Patty.


Ruth assures Patty that better times are coming for her. Patty tries to insure Ruth that better times are coming for her as well and Ruth replies, “...things don’t get no better for old colored ladies” (228). This is a very powerful line, which captures the essence of the novel and also brings about the resolution of the story. Throughout the novel Patty had found comfort and safety in Ruth because Ruth loved Patty very much and served as a mother to her. In the previous chapter it seems that Ruth has finally assured Patty of her value as a person; it seems that is the first time in the novel that Patty truly believes in herself and her value. Patty and Ruth discuss how Patty can go off to high school and then college, and Patty will be able to have any job she wishes.

When Ruth says this line: “...things don’t get no better for old colored ladies” (228), there are two important meanings behind it. First, Patty realizes that she must, in a way, give up Ruth to go on and pursue a life that will truly make her happy and successful. Just like any child who leaves home to attend college or move away from home to accept a job, Patty must leave the person she loves, and who has been a mother to her. This is not to be taken literally that Patty will never see Ruth again. It is more the notion that Patty is growing up; she now has the confidence to find herself and love herself and she knows that she cannot do that remaining with Ruth, especially because of the difference in class between the Caucasians and African Americans during this time period.

Also, this statement of Ruth’s can also be taken literally. We feel sad for Ruth when she states this because, during this time period, her statement is true. African Americans were not able to have good jobs and education as Caucasians, and often made a living having jobs like Ruth’s. Throughout the story we grow to love Ruth because we see that Ruth is one of the only people who loves and believes in Patty. We then feel pain for Ruth because we know that this is as good as her life is going to get and the two most important people to Ruth, Patty and her son, Robert, have been forced to leave her behind.

The story actually comes together in the very last paragraph of the novel. In this short paragraph we know that Patty is about to begin her life. She has lived, thus far, very suppressed, unloved, and self-conscious; however, we now know that Patty loves herself, believes in herself and is ready to start a life to finally please herself, instead of worrying about pleasing others.


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