What about Patty and her parents in The Summer of My German Soldier? Why does she lie about the P.O.W's?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the book, it is clear that Patty doesn't have a good relationship with her parents. Patty's mother seems overly focused on her daughter's looks. In the first chapter, Mrs. Bergen criticizes Patty in front of Mrs. Fields; she complains that Patty is less particular about her looks than Sharon (Patty's sister).

Whenever Mrs. Bergen gets a chance, she berates Patty about her lack of beauty, finesse, and poise. As a result, Patty feels unloved and marginalized. Patty is often forced to compete for her father's attention as well. In chapter 1, she makes up a story about the POWs, characterizing them as "big and mean-looking" criminals. Patty tells her father that one of the POWs tried to escape after disembarking. According to Patty, one of the guards noticed the lone prisoner's suspicious behavior and proceeded to unleash some brutal words of warning against him.

Of course, this sensationalized story isn't true; Patty has just made it up to gain a few minutes of her father's attention. Patty's parents never accept her for who she is. By the story's end, they continue to insist that their oldest daughter is flawed in ways that they will never be able to embrace. Later, Ruth (the family housekeeper) tells Patty that her parents will never be the kind she can rely on for love, warmth, and acceptance. In the end, Patty has to learn to accept reality and to try to carve out a meaningful existence for herself.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Patty Bergen is a troubled teen, friendless, set apart by her nationality, and put down by her parents.  Her mother and father have serious issues of their own, and constantly criticize her and tell her she is no good.  As is so often the case in dysfunctional homes, Patti responds by exacerbating her own situation, lying, exaggerating, and and generally perpetuating a cycle of bad behavior on her part and resulting parental disapproval.  In addition, the boundaries between fantasy and reality become blurred in her own mind, further contributing to her difficulties.

Aside from an arguable element of sheer orneriness, Patti's behavior in lying about the arrival of the POWs in Chapter 1 stems from a desperate desire for attention.  Engrossed in his paper, her father is annoyed that she wants to talk to him.  When she finally does get him to listen to her, she feels "like an actress who finally gets her big chance", and embellishes her tale in hopes of leaving an impression, as well as to make herself feel important.  Characteristically, her father hears her with disinterest, abruptly dismissing her when she is done with the comment, "let me read my paper in peace", giving the reader a sad insight into why Patti might act the way she does.

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Summer of My German Soldier

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