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There are several conflicts throughout this story; the first being Patty vs. herself. Patty constantly perceives herself as ugly and un-valuable. She is extremely self-conscious and constantly insulting herself, in her speech, looks and mannerisms.
Another major conflict is Patty vs. her parents. Her parents favor her little sister, Sharon, and continually insult Patty. Patty’s mother is disappointed in her looks and her personality and Patty’s father regularly beats her. This conflict is a major cause as to why Patty feels like an un-valuable person. Patty feels so neglected by her parents, that she makes up fictitious stories and lies, throughout the novel to capture the attention of others.
The third major conflict, in this novel, is Patty vs. Society. Given this time period, it would be unheard of for a white, Jewish girl like Patty, to love her African American housekeeper and a German POW. This totally went against the norm during this time period and is what gets Patty into much trouble in the story.
Patty Bergen is the protagonist of Summer of My German Soldier. She is the character around which the action develops. Patty is a lover, a dreamer and a girl who sees the beauty of people for who they are in their hearts.
Patty’s parents, Pearl and Harry Bergen, are the major antagonists in the story. They constantly insult and neglect Patty. Her parents never show her any signs of love. This causes Patty to feel extremely bad about herself and crave love and attention. This is one of the reasons why Patty hides Anton: she has finally found someone who loves her and makes her feel like a valuable person.
The climax of the story occurs while the FBI is interviewing Patty about the man she fed. The FBI agent shows her a picture of Anton; we can feel Patty’s emotions begin to build as she tries to cover up her story. The action of the story reaches its peak when the FBI agent shows Patty the shirt she had given Anton, with bloodstains on it. Patty knows that Anton is dead and she lunges at the FBI agent in a rage, very much unlike herself.
The outcome, of the novel, occurs at the very end when Ruth is leaving Patty at the reformatory school. Ruth finally gets Patty to understand that it is her parents who are the bad people, not Patty; it is Patty who is the good person. Once Ruth exits the reformatory, Patty knows that she is about to begin a new life: a life for herself. She will reach her goals and not live trying to get love and attention from her parents.