Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 585
Here are some quotes from "The Defender of the Faith" by Philip Roth:
"I had been fortunate enough to develop an infantryman’s heart, which, like his feet, at first aches and swells but finally grows horny enough for him to travel the weirdest paths without feeling a thing."
Nathan Marx, the narrator of the story, has been fighting in Europe, moving towards Germany at the end of World War II, when the story begins. He compares his heart to a soldier's feet that are hardened by marching. Just as a soldier's feet become callused enough so that they don't feel anything, his heart has also grown toughened by seeing the misery and atrocity of war. He feels glad that he has hardened his heart against feeling.
He looked at me with those speckled eyes flashing, and then made a gesture with his hand. It was very slight—no more than a movement back and forth of the wrist—and yet it managed to exclude from our affairs everything else in the orderly room, to make the two of us the center of the world. It seemed, in fact, to exclude everything even about the two of us except our hearts.
Grossbart, who is in training under Marx, assumes that they will share a common understanding because they are both Jewish. His hand gesture is metaphorical of the world Grossbart creates that takes in Marx. He has a way of drawing Marx into his world and assuming that Marx will share his sensibilities. However, as Marx notes, this understanding leaves out his heart, which does not always side with Grossbart.
“Jewish personnel who want to attend services this evening are to fall out in front of the orderly room at 1900,” I said. Then, as an afterthought, I added, “By order of Captain Barrett.”
When Marx makes the announcement that Grossbart and the other Jewish trainees can attend Friday night services, he is careful to say that the non-Jewish captain, Barrett, made the order. Marx does not want to seem like he is giving advantages to other Jewish soldiers.
It had to reach past those days in the forests of Belgium, and past the dying I’d refused to weep over; past the nights in German...
(The entire section contains 585 words.)
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