Summer of My German Soldier: Chapters 11-15
In Chapter Eleven, Patty’s mother complains about missing food and asks her husband to have a word with Ruth about it. Patty says she ate it to ensure Ruth is not fired. When Ruth and Patty are alone, Ruth asks if she is alright after the beating from her father. Ruth then asks who the man is, that is, the one who ran out to save her from her father. She tells Ruth the truth, and Ruth says she will make him breakfast: she understands he is a friend because he risked his freedom for Patty.
The narrative shifts to Anton and Patty as he asks if it was his fault that she was beaten. She explains it was because her father had forbidden her from talking to Freddy, and admits for the first time aloud that she does not like her father. Anton tells her that after he beat her, her father went into the garage and talked to himself and kept repeating that nobody loves him.
A contentious point is then made when Anton compares her father to Hitler and says they both share cruelty and a lack of humor. He sees their difference as being in ‘degrees of power’.
They change the subject and Patty informs him she would rather be intelligent than pretty and Anton tells her she is already both. He also tells her he is at her service and will be her teacher. He gives her a copy of Emmerson’s essays. Ruth calls them for food and Anton worries that Patty has informed on him. She reminds him of how he ran from the hide-out to save her, and that Ruth saw him. The chapter ends with Anton smiling and pleased he wanted to risk his life for her, as he feels he has been a coward for two years.
In Chapter Twelve, Ruth has laid the table and directs Anton to sit in the chair of Patty’s father. He pulls out a chair for her and asks her to join them. Patty knows this is the first time a white man has ever done that for her. She sits down with them after a while and asks him how African-American people are treated in Germany. After replying there aren’t any, he says it is ‘our politics and hearts that give us trouble’. Ruth draws a parallel with America, and that there are bad hearts here too. She names Mr. J.G. Jackson’s father (the grandfather of Edna Louise) as one in particular as he claimed to be putting the money saved by Ruth’s mother in his safe. For years, she entrusted him with 50 or 70 cents a week for Ruth’s education (to train as a teacher), but there were only just over three dollars when she came to collect it.
Ruth tells them how she saved in a bank for her son, but he has also been cheated of an education because he has been drafted. The head of the board insisted he did his share for his country when she tried to appeal.
Anton says he used to believe education would save the world, until he watched educated Germans ‘express their enthusiasm for this war’. He also doubts the efficacy of religion or psychiatry, but does still believe love is better than hate.
After a false alarm that someone was returning home, Anton says he will leave that night and not endanger them anymore.
Chapter Thirteen begins with Patty sitting outside with Sharon and wishing she was pretty like her sister. She fantasizes about gaining her father’s approval by telling him of Anton, as this information would gain him ‘instant acceptance’ in the town. At dinner, she tries to engage her father in conversation, but he just snaps at her. Her thoughts reveal that she is considering leaving with Anton and doubts her father will miss her.
She walks with Ruth as she heads home for the day and notes Ruth is wearing the rhinestone pin she bought her for mother’s day. When they part company, Ruth sees that Patty is acting a little differently and warns her to stay away from the garage that night (where the hide-out is), because, ‘no Jewish girl and no colored woman need that kinda trouble’.
That night, Patty packs a few of her possessions and says goodbye to Sharon. She then leaves by the bedroom window. She tells Anton she wants to come with him, but he says it is impossible. He loves her, as she does him, though, and gives her his great-grandfather’s ring from when he was the president of the University of Göttingen. He insists she takes it when she demurs, and says his last lesson is that he wants her to remember she is a person of value. She has had a friend who loves her so very much he has given her his most valued possession. They kiss briefly and he leaves. Time passes and she hears the 10.15 train that he intended to jump on.
In Chapter Fourteen, Patty is back in school and has stopped counting the time since Anton’s departure. She wears his ring on a chain around her neck and whispers to it for comfort. She decides to wear it on her finger as she believes it should not be hidden.
When she enters the store, she sees a small group gathered around Sharon as they watch her sing and dance. Patty’s father says she is as good as Shirley Temple and thinks she could be in films too. Patty is jealous of his favoritism and tells Sharon to leave her alone. She decides to help Sister Parker and shows her the ring. She then invents a story to explain how she acquired it. She says she helped an old man and he rewarded her with this. Sister Parker takes the ring over to Patty’s father to ask if it is real gold.
He demands to know where Patty got the ring and she says a man over the age of 40 gave it to her. He asks if he was white or ‘colored’ and she does not understand when he asks what she gave in return. He calls her a dirty, filthy girl and believes she let him touch her. He strikes her and she tells him she does not love him, nobody does.
In Chapter Fifteen, Sister Parker takes Patty to lie down as her father rings the sheriff and asks him to come to the store. She repeats the story she told her father when the sheriff questions her and he is kind to her. He allows her to keep the ring. However, her father is still not pleased and cannot understand why she has been given a 24 carat gold ring. She tells them it might be because the man told her he wished he had a daughter exactly like her.
Chapter Twelve is a significant chapter in that it draws parallels between racism in America and Nazism in Germany. These may be contentious comparisons, but are significant nevertheless when one considers Ruth’s son, Robert, is expected to die for ‘his’ country despite the inequalities and persecutions that he, his mother and fellow African-Americans have to endure.
This unfair treatment is highlighted in one small instance when Anton asks Ruth to sit with them. Patty rightly notes that this will be the first time a white man has offered Ruth such respect.
The bond between Ruth, Anton and Patty is made firm in this chapter and it is clear the novel is asking the readers to question prejudiced thinking. When Ruth discovers Patty has been hiding an escaped prisoner, Ruth recognizes that he must be trustworthy as he wanted to save Patty from her father’s brutality. Rather than condemn Anton, she understands immediately that he is a person and not a stereotype (which is how she has been treated all her life).
In Chapter Fifteen, by contrast, Patty’s father characteristically assumes the most negative thoughts of his daughter and the reason why she received the ring of friendship. Her father comes to symbolize the ignorance of prejudice and is always seen to prefer violence to discussion.