The cast of characters in Summer of My German Soldier includes a variety of vivid personalities. Patty Bergen, the central character, is a twelve-year-old who perceives herself as plain and outspoken and thus "living with a disadvantage." Although frequently rebuffed when she tries to express love to her parents, she doggedly devises stories and scenarios designed to win their lasting affection. Her father brutally beats her, and her mother ridicules her appearance and behavior, but Patty too often blames herself for their abuse, rationalizing that if only she were prettier or more talented, her parents would love her the way they do her younger sister, Sharon. Patty's father considers Sharon—a cute, pampered little girl—the next Shirley Temple.
Patty's first-person narration of the story reveals her wit, imagination, and intelligence. Her favorite pastime is reading the dictionary, and she seriously applies herself to a study of language. Patty, demands precision of meaning: "When I read a book," she says, "I want to understand precisely what it is the writer is saying, not just almost but precisely." After meeting Charlene Madlee, a newspaper reporter who encourages her interest in writing, Patty aspires to a career in journalism.
Harry Bergen, Patty's father, puts running his dry goods store ahead of caring for his children. He is portrayed as a monstrously cruel man, but Greene hints that his violent behavior is the result of...
(The entire section is 506 words.)