Summer of My German Soldier: Chapters 3-6
On Monday, in Chapter Three, Patty notices the German prisoners on Main Street when she returns from the bank with change. She then sees the prisoners and guards go into her parents’ (Jewish) store. They have come to buy field hats as they are picking cotton and her father is polite even though he has previously said all Germans should be tortured to death.
One of the Germans comes over to Patty to buy a pencil sharpener and she wishes, for once, that she had a comb to smarten herself up. She knows he is not a bad man as he laughs at something she says and she asks him where he learned such good English. He replies that his mother was born in Manchester, England and his father studied history in London. He asks her name and she tells him in full, but says she prefers Patty. He tells her his name is Frederick Anton Reiker. He lets her know that his friends call him Anton and says he hopes she will also call him this. He gives her further details of his life and informs her that his father is a university professor and he used to be a medical student. As he leaves, she prays he will become her friend. He breaks into her prayer and asks for a gaudy tie pin that looks like it is made of diamonds (but is not).
Chapter Four begins with a minor disagreement between Patty and her mother. Patty then thinks of how her mother is a good saleswoman, but also implies that this is because she lies. Patty goes on to admit to herself that she also lies.
Patty decides to talk to Sister Parker, a saleswoman, and wants to discuss Anton. She knows she will have to be careful about this as Sister Parker’s brother will probably have to fight in the war. When she broaches the subject, Sister Parker says she noticed her laughing with him and then Patty lies and says how Anton was telling her he wants America to win the war as Hitler killed his parents and sister.
She decides to visit Edna Louise Jackson as she is ‘boy crazy’ and so will understand why she likes Anton. When Patty tells her about him, Edna Louise’s prejudices come to the fore as she says going out with a German prisoner is ‘almost as bad as going out with a nigger’. Patty is repelled by the comparison and says it is not (and thus demonstrates the limits of her open-mindedness).
On Thursday, in Chapter Five, Patty visits her grandmother in Memphis. During lunch, her grandmother mentions her fears for her sister in ‘Hitler-occupied Luxembourg’ and says how she has not received a letter from them in months. When they leave each other at the train station, Patty becomes sullen when she is informed she cannot come next week as her grandparents are taking a holiday.
She feels silly for being so upset the next day, but is quite alone in her town as other girls have been sent off to the Baptist Training Camp for the summer. Because she is Jewish, she is not allowed to attend. Instead, she spends her day riding her bicycle and fixing up her hide-out. She also reads the dictionary, because one of her ambitions is to know the meaning of every word in the English language.
After discussing Ruth’s fears for her son, Patty sits outside alone and wishes that she had a black horse called Evol. She would pretend she named it after evolution, but her ‘real’ mother would see the name as a sign - as it is love in reverse.
Whilst she sits alone, Freddy Dowd comes over to chat and Patty remembers her father saying she must never play with him again. He did not give her a reason, but it is obvious that Freddy is extremely poor. On Patty’s instigation, they play a game of throwing small stones at hub caps. Unfortunately, one of these stones smashes a car window and Patty runs off. She then tells Ruth about it. Ruth becomes more concerned when Patty tells her the car owners are white, and Ruth wonders if they know she is Mr Bergen’s girl (that is, Jewish). She gives Patty three dollars to pay for the damage and the narrative shifts to Patty’s fractured thoughts. It is implied that she considers, or wishes, that Ruth was her mother. Patty sets off to pay the money, but her father drives up to her and stops abruptly. She asks to explain but he does not listen: ‘A mask cannot really hear.’ He proceeds to beat her with his hand and belt and says that will teach her not to throw rocks at people.
Chapter Six sees Patty glad that it is Saturday as the country folk come into town. She notes that the poor African-Americans tend to be proudest in their dress and more respectful than the white people. She also likes Saturdays as she is allowed to work in the store and talk and listen to a lot of different people.
She overhears Mr. Blakey, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Henkins talking about the latest news. The FBI has caught ‘eight dirty Nazis’ who are considered to be saboteurs. She tells her father and is again obviously keen to impress him, but to no avail.
Her mother decides Patty should visit Mrs. Reeves in order to get a permanent wave and Patty is adamant that she will not go. When she refuses, her father tells her he will hit her if she does not go there immediately and so she obeys. The chapter ends with Patty leaving Mrs. Reeves with ‘individual wire coils of scorched hair’.
Chapter Three is significant as this marks the first encounter between Patty and Anton. Through Patty’s voice, Anton is introduced as an educated, polite German soldier and is clearly regarded as kinder than her father even on this first meeting. This differentiation is made clearer in Chapter Five when her father beats her for throwing stones (or rocks as he would have it). He is intolerant and brutal and deaf to his daughter’s protestations.
The descriptions that Patty gives of the behavior of her father and mother are, of course, from a 12-year-old point of view and so lack in sophistication and insight. The narration may be regarded as an accurate representation of the voice of a girl, but this also means that the characterizations of Pearl and Harry are one-dimensional in places.