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

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OVERALL ANALYSIS


CHARACTER ANALYSIS


Patty Bergen

Patty Bergen is the protagonist of Summer of My German Soldier. She is an outcast in many ways: she is Jewish, part of a wealthy family, and she is perceived as a failure by her parents. Patty is extremely lonely and longs for love. She meets Anton, a German POW, and shelters him after he escapes the prison. She ends up being tried for treason. By the end of the story, Patty has become an outcast, not only to her peers, but from her country as well.

Patty feels so isolated that she copes with her boredom and loneliness through exaggeration, lying and living in her own world of make-believe. It is this boredom and isolation that constantly gets her into trouble.

Throughout the story, Patty tells many lies and fictitious stories, especially to Sister Parker. Patty feels that no one is interested in her, especially her parents. She thrives on trying to please her parents by delivering them the news, being polite and telling stories. Patty’s parents treat her as if she is a failure and disappointment to them; since Patty longs for someone to love her she expends extreme amounts of energy and time into trying to please them and capture their attention.

Patty gets herself in the most trouble when she tells Sister Parker the make-believe story about where she got Anton’s ring. Patty made up a story to have the attention and interest of Sister Parker. Sister Parker asked Patty’s father if he had heard her story and Patty got caught in the middle having to tell the fake story once again to her father. Her father goes ballistic and calls the sheriff. If Patty never felt the need to make up stories, she would not have gotten tried for treason and sent to the reformatory school.

Patty’s character is an example of how far one will go to feel love. Patty is truly and innocent and genuine person that it is a shame she keeps getting in trouble. However, she feels so neglected and isolated from her family and friends, that she would do anything to please someone enough to love her.

At the end of the story Patty realizes that she is a person of value and that she is not a failure. Ruth, the woman who acted as a mother to Patty, told her that she loved her and caused her to understand that it is her parents who are the cruel people. Towards the end of the novel, we know that Patty now has confidence and a realistic dream: she wants to attend high school and then college to become a reporter. Patty has stopped imagining what her life would be like if her parents loved her and is about to make something positive happen for herself.



PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The plot is fairly straight forward; however, it may be complicated at times with some of the underlying historical information. It is important to remember how that the Jews were treated differently in America during WWII. Patty’s family was a wealthy, Jewish, family in the heart of a small Protestant town. Her father tried desperately to make the family blend in to their society and go along with the majority view. This is why he is so ill tempered and beats Patty every time she strays from the norm of their town. Pearl and Harry do not want to be isolated, in any way, from the society in which they live; since Patty deviates from their standers of this norm they neglect her and treat her as a failure.

The book is divided into five parts, which makes it more convenient to distinguish the important events in the novel and also the traditional plot elements: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Resolution.

Exposition

In the Exposition, introductory material is presented which gives the reader the setting, creates the tone and presents the characters and other facts necessary to understanding the story. Within the first couple chapters we learn all the necessary background information: the story takes place during WWII, the Bergens are a Jewish family, and Patty is extremely lonely and isolated due to poor treatment by her parents. This is all important information in understanding Patty’s character, which is the basis for the entire story.

Rising Action

The Rising Action is the events that build from the conflict. There are several conflicts in this story happening simultaneously: Patty trying to be accepted by her parents, herself and society, and also the fact that she befriends a German POW. The action of the story begins to rise as she befriends Anton. When Patty meets Anton, in the store, she takes such a liking for him, that we know something is bound to happen between the two. The action continues to rise when we see how belligerent Patty’s father is when he gets angry with her. Knowing this, Patty still risks her safety as well as Anton’s by illegally sheltering him.

Climax

The climax is the high point of the story and also the point at which the outcome can be predicted. The climax is prefaced when Patty’s father questions her as to where she got her ring. Here, we know her story is going to slip at some point. The action continues to rise as Patty gets questioned by the FBI. The climax approaches when the FBI agent shows Patty a picture of Anton, and his bloody shirt. From here on, the action begins to fall as Patty’s story becomes public.

Falling Action

The Falling Action is the events after the Climax, which close the story and lead to the resolution. After Patty sees Anton’s bloody shirt she knows he is dead. She tells her story to the FBI agent and all goes downhill from there. The mood becomes even more somber when Patty must hire a lawyer and go on trial.

Resolution (Denouement)

The resolution is the outcome of all the events in the story. There are two resolutions in this story: one dealing with Patty physically and another dealing with her emotional well-being. Because of Patty’s loneliness and boredom, her lies, exaggerations and desire for attention cause her to be punished in the reformatory school. Emotionally however, Patty now realizes that she has been hindered by her parents.

At the end of the story Patty emotions change toward her parents and herself. She no longer feels that her parents are superior to her, and she feels confidence in herself that she can begin her new life, striving to be a reporter. We can assume that Patty will move back home, after her stay at the reformatory school, but she will not spend her days bored and aiming to please her parents. She will keep learning her words and attend school. Patty will also not allow her disparaging parents affect her mentality.


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