Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Nathan Marx recounts his experiences shortly after his posting to Camp Crowder, Missouri. An infantry sergeant, Marx has spent two years in heavy combat in the European theater of World War II. In May, 1945, he is reassigned to the United States, tasked with helping train fresh recruits before they are sent abroad. Soon after Captain Paul Barrett, his gruff and abusive new commanding officer, introduces him to the troops, Marx is approached by one of the camp’s trainees, a private named Sheldon Grossbart. Grossbart asks whether Marx will continue his predecessor’s practice of ordering the men to clean their barracks every Friday night. He complains that it forces Jewish soldiers like himself to choose between religious worship and their military duties. Jews are a rarity at Camp Crowder, and he notes that attendance at Friday night services arouses resentment among the other soldiers. Grossbart suspects that Marx, too, is Jewish and hints that he should be sympathetic toward the plight of a coreligionist. However, denying any tie to Grossbart, Marx is curt and formal and insists that he will not make unusual accommodations for him. It is only when he uses the Yiddish word shul to refer to the site of sabbath services that Marx reveals his own Jewish identity.
Marx later informs Captain Barrett about Grossbart’s request. The officer is disdainful of Grossbart as a Jew who seeks special privileges, and he praises Marx for not allowing his own...
(The entire section is 718 words.)
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