Race and Ethnicity
The most important theme of Summer of My German Soldier is the separation of racial and ethnic groups. Patty's religion, Ruth's race, and the prejudices of Jenkinsville all play against each other to illustrate the problematic racial politics of rural Southern culture in the 1940s.
The inherent racism of the South is illustrated most obviously through the character of Ruth, the family's maid. She rarely talks about the daily prejudice she faces, but the reality of her situation is revealed in several key scenes. In one such episode, a neighbor demands that the family fire Ruth for her "uppityness." Even Patty initially thinks in these racist terms, as shown by her later rejection of them. As she says, "Ruth isn't one bit uppity. Merely prideful." As the descendant of slaves and the potential victim of lynch mobs and crowd hatred, Ruth already knows more than enough about violence and the corruption of power. Because of this, Ruth is immediately drawn to Anton's plight. He is hunted, imprisoned, and cast out from the world for being German, just as Ruth is despised for being black.
Initially, the Bergen family's Judaism is not an obvious issue in either the novel or the town. At times this seems to be deliberate, as when the family discusses the fate of their relatives in Nazi-occupied parts of Europe. When Grandmother...
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