Summer of My German Soldier

by Bette Greene

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In Summer of My German Soldier, what actions did the townspeople take against Mr. Lee and what was Patty's ambition? What was Patty's punishment for talking back to her mom?

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The townspeople essentially run Mr. Lee out of town, harassing him and making him a victim of a hate crime.  Someone throws a heavy object, most likely a rock or a brick, through the plate-glass window at the front of his store, "The Chu Lee Grocery Company", and the next day, Mr. Lee and his family are gone.  After the Lees' departure, Mr. J.G. Jackson is heard laughing as he tells Mr. Bergen, "Our boys at Pearl Harbor would have got a lot of laughs at the farewell party we gave the Chink".  By his derogatory comment towards the Asian man, Mr. Jackson is showing his attitude of bigotry.  Even though Mr. Lee has no connection with the Japanese against whom the United States is fighting, his perceived resemblance to the enemy is enough to make him an object of hatred in the community (Chapter 1).

Patty has an interesting ambition, fueled by boredom and loneliness.  She wants to learn the meaning "of every word in the English language", and studies the dictionary to achieve this end when she has nothing else to do.  Patty says that this ambition is "not the only one (she has), but it's the only one (she) work(s) at".  Currently, she is on the words that start with "F" (Chapter 5).

When Patty talks back to her mother, she is forced to go to Mrs. Reeves and get a permanent wave.  Actually, since the idea of going to Mrs. Reeves is what triggered her arguing back to her mother in the first place, she may have had to have her hair done by Mrs. Reeves regardless of her reaction, but when Patty responds with anger to her mother's suggestion, her mother decides to make her experience as painful as possible, ordering a permanent wave for her.  Patty knows that Mrs. Reeves is incompetent, and dreads the thought of appearing as "a frizzledy freak...for months and months".   Her mother, however, coldly ignores her appeals, even though she herself would never submit to Mrs. Reeves' ministrations, and Patty's father steps in to make sure Patty follows her mother's directive under threat of "a licking like (she's) never had before" (Chapter 6).

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