Summer of My German Soldier: Top Ten Quotes
- I tried to read their faces for brutality, terror, humiliation - something. But the only thing I sensed was a kind of relief at finally having arrived at their destination.
At this early stage in the novel, Patty glimpses the German prisoners of war arriving in Jenkinsville. Her description of these men is unbiased by prejudice.
- In the movies war criminals being hustled off to prison would be dramatic. Their ravaged faces would tell a story of defeat, disgrace, and downfall. But in real life it didn’t seem all that important.
Here, Patty expresses her disappointment that the arrival of the soldiers is not dramatic enough. This is an understandable point of view when one considers her age, and the description also gives the novel an element of realism as it refuses to stereotype its depiction of the prisoners.
- But someday it would happen. I’d find her and she’d understand right away that Evol has more power in reverse. And that would be the sign between us. She would be my real mother and now at last I could go home.
In this reference, Patty daydreams about owning a horse named Evol. She then links this to the fantasy of finding a ‘real’ mother who would understand her and the concept of love.
- It’s as though they try to give each other the respect that the rest of the world holds back.
Patty registers the difference in behaviour between the white and African-American country folk when they come into town on a Saturday. This quotation refers to her perception of how the African-Americans she meets are proud and polite; this is offered as a critique of racism, but is, of course, another generalization.
- One man is able to affect millions and the other only a few. Would your father’s cruelty cause him to crush weak neighboring states? Or would the Führer’scruelty cause him to beat his own daughter? Doesn’t it seem to you that they both need to inflict pain?
This is a crucial reference in the novel as Anton compares Patty’s Jewish father to Hitler. To add to the controversy, the comparison is made by Anton, the German soldier. Greene illustrates here that cruelty is not reserved for followers of Nazism.
- But leaders don’t usually spring forth to impose their will upon a helpless people. They, like department stores, are in business to give people what they think they want. So basically you always come back to people. How do you make better people?
Anton makes this point to Ruth and Patty as they discuss evil and reasons for the war. Anton’s argument succinctly draws a parallel between Patty’s parents and despots, and is also of interest for the clear-minded refusal to blame only Hitler for his position of power. As this novel reminds us, he needed a following to gain this position.
- Even if you forget everything else I want you to always remember that you are a person of value, and you have a friend who loved you enough to give you his most valued possession.
This reference comes as Anton says goodbye to Patty for the last time. He has just given her his treasured ring and shows her more compassion and love than her parents.
- I got the smallest of the three suitcases out of the closet and began putting in some clothes like a robot who feels nothing. I wasn’t even conscious anymore of wanting anything except maybe to be left alone, and I wasn’t even strong on that. Living was too big a deal and dying too much trouble.
It is made evident here that after Anton’s death, Patty has become numb and has lost hope for the future. She has been instructed to explain her actions (hiding Anton) to the FBI and has to go to Memphis as her father insists that she has a lawyer from there.
- At the Memphis Zoo they used the same kind of screening for the animals.
This is Patty’s opinion of her reformatory school as she drives up to it for the first time.
- It was like watching my very own life raft floating away towards the open sea. And yet somewhere in my mind’s eye I thought I could see the faintest outline of land. Then it came to me that maybe that’s the only thing life rafts are supposed to do. Taking the shipwrecked, not exactly to the land, but only in view of land. The final mile being theirs alone to swim.
In the closing pages of the novel, Ruth comes to visit Patty in the reformatory school. She is asked to leave at the end of visiting time and Patty refuses to let go of her ‘life raft’ initially. When Ruth finally leaves, it is possible to see in this quotation that Patty gradually comes to terms with being alone. This signifies a new maturity as she recognizes the need for independence.