Summer of My German Soldier

by Bette Greene

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What are some examples of racism in the book The Summer of my German Soldier?  

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In the Southern town where Patty lives during World War II, racism is rampant.  It is evident most clearly in attitudes towards the Bergens' black maid, Ruth.  Ruth has a fierce sense of dignity and is not afraid to speak her mind, an attribute which causes the white ladies of the town to regard her as "uppity".  The racism with which Ruth must constantly contend is illustrated when Mrs. Benn complains to Mrs. Bergen about her "Nigra".  Mrs. Benn says that Ruth had seen Mrs. Benn at the market and raced to the counter to get the last two pounds of hamberger.  Mrs. Benn, who expects blacks to be subservient to her and recognized her own perceived superiority, is appalled at Ruth's audacity, and wants Mrs. Bergen to fire her.  Mrs. Bergen's response shows her own racist orientation, when she replies,

"I just can't fire Ruth...she's the best cook and house cleaner we've ever had".

Black people are not the only of victims of racism in the town.  Mr. Lee, a Chinese grocery store owner, disappears after being the object of a hate crime.  His store is vandalized, a heavy item thrown through the window in the night, and Mr. J.G. Jackson gloats to Mr. Bergen,

"Our boys at Pearl Harbor would have got a lot of laugts at the farewell party we gave the Chink" (Chapter 1).

Racism is often the result when, during war, anger towards the enemy translates into hatred for the enemy's race in general.  Mr. Bergen evidences this when he says,

"Every German oughta be taken out and tortured to death" (Chapter 3).


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